2022 World Cup – Monday 05 December 2022
France 3 (0) – (0) 1 Poland (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)
France scorers: Giroud (44′), Mbappe (74′, 90’+1’). Poland scorer: Lewandowski (90’+9’ pen)
These two teams had met previously in a World Cup back in 1982 when they contested the 3rd/4th place match at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez in Alicante. On that occasion it was the Poles who emerged 3-2 winners. The last competitive fixtures came in the qualifiers for Euro ’96, with both games ending in draws, as France went through to the finals as group runners-up with Poland finishing fourth in the group of six.
Since those times France have emerged as one of the best teams in the world becoming European Champions in 2000 and World Cup winners in 1998 and 2018, and as such came into this game as hot favourites.
Whilst the score-line suggest an easy win for the current World Champions, Poland certainly had their moments before France took the lead just before half-time. The goal was significant not just because it put Les Bleus ahead, but also because it was Olivier Giroud’s 52nd goal for France making his the country’s record scorer ahead of Thierry Henry. Kylian Mbappe was a constant threat throughout with his pace and physicality and his reward was two fine second-half goals which also were record breakers as the French striker bettered Pele’s total of scoring seven World Cup goals before the age of 24. The goals also saw Mbappe lead the race for the Golden Boot with five goals now to his name. Poland though gained a consolation deep into time added-on when they awarded a penalty which Robert Lewandowski converted at the second attempt (Lloris saved the first but was adjudged to have moved off his line too early) to make it 3-1. France looking ominously good.
England 3 (2) – (0) 0 Senegal (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)
England scorers: Henderson (38′), Kane (45’+3’), Saka (57′)
This was the first ever senior international between The Three Lions and The Lions of Teranga (Teranga defined as a combination of hospitality, respect, community and solidarity) but who would be King of the Jungle (and not in a I’m a Celebrity kind of way).
England for the first thirty minutes were in a tight spot (cue Tight Fit’s version of The Lions Sleeps tonight for those of a certain age) as Senegal pressed, created decent chances and forced numerous passing errors. It was a nervous watch at this stage. There followed a switch as the slow playing from the back was replaced by a more direct style which suddenly produced results. As with the Wales game a quick two-goal salvo put the Three Lions in charge. Jude Bellingham was at the heart of both, first providing a break and great ball for Jordan Henderson to sweep home and for the second breaking up play and with a striding run created a move which Harry Kane finished gratefully smashed home. Suddenly that nervy first half hour was just a memory and England were cruising. An early goal in the second half from the Saka after a fine ball from Foden, meant a comfy lead and a chance for Gareth Southgate to ring the changes ahead of the Quarter Final with France. If England are to go any further then they have to do it the hard way. Surely a lion can overcome a cockerel?