Gareth Southgate will weigh up making any changes to his England starting line-up for Saturday’s quarter-final against France but could stick with the same line-up who dispatched Senegal with ease.
England could reach the semi-finals of a second consecutive World Cup under Southgate with a victory at the Al Bayt Stadium, but must find a way past the reigning champions in order to do so.
Southgate has not been afraid of changing his selection in Qatar, but started the same XI for the opening two games of the tournament before making changes for the games against Wales and Senegal.
The England manager must now weigh up whether he sticks with his selection and starts Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden once again either side of Harry Kane, with Jordan Henderson in midfield with Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice, or bring Marcus Rashford back into the starting line-up.
Another decision he must make is whether to stick with his four-man defence, or revert to three centre-backs and bring Kieran Trippier back in. Raheem Sterling, who returned to Qatar on Friday after travelling back home following a home burglary, is set to be available for the quarter-final.
So who should he pick and what will the final score be? Our Telegraph Sport writers predict how Saturday’s match will pay out.
My prediction for the game switches hour by hour, and every time a case is made for England to win the thought of Kylian Mbappe crosses my mind. But England do have the weapons to win this match, they have the pace and the set-piece nous to cause France trouble like they have not experienced at this tournament yet. England have yet to peak. They were shaky at the back against Iran, matched by USA and were poor for 45 minutes against Wales. Even in the first half against Senegal they could have fallen behind. If it all comes together at Al-Bayt Stadium, it will be their night.
Prediction: England 1-0 France
Though it is a 16-man game, with the five potential substitutes as significant a part of the team as the starting XI, Gareth Southgate will not want to make changes until after half-time. So he needs his team to stay in the game from the off. That means keeping Kylian Mbappe quiet. A combination of Bukayo Saka and Kyle Walker on the right, with one of the midfielders - maybe Jude Bellingham - posted wide to join them when necessary is probably the most secure approach. In other words, Southgate's best bet is to start with the side - and formation - that began against Senegal and not to be side-tracked into starting with a back five.
Prediction: England 2-1 France
Dropping Jordan Henderson feels incredibly harsh after his performance against Senegal but England will need legs and energy in the advanced areas of midfield. Mason Mount can push higher up the pitch, unsettling the France midfield and disrupting the flow of their passing. Stopping the midfielders will be key to stopping Kylian Mbappe. Mount would be a front-foot option, and a statement of intent from Gareth Southgate. Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden should keep their places on the wings, providing width and speed. Saka will need to contribute defensively, too, against a left-leaning France attack.
Prediction: England 1-1 France (England win on penalties)
The match will be closer than this scoreline might suggest and France do have the best individual player in the world. Kylian Mbappe can beat any team on any given day. But my hunch is for a hard-fought and even match until at least half-time before England's superior depth in attacking options becomes significant late in the game.
Prediction: England 3-1 France
The level has risen in the knockout stages, France, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina flexing their muscles. England did so too against Senegal, but to end the world champions' reign they must hit a standard above and beyond anything we have seen from the national team in most of our lifetimes. Gareth Southgate has midfielders and strikers with the capacity to get the job done. Defensively? Not so much, and the most intense games expose any flaws. But while England hopes, the French have already been there and done it and carry the swagger of champions. Everything must be perfect for England to progress. If both sides are at their best, the French edge it in a thriller.
Prediction: England 2-3 France
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