France will continue to battle Poland for the World Cup title on Sunday, while England’s quest for a first major trophy in 56 years will be tested by African champions Senegal. Didier Deschamps’ France aim to become the first back-to-back World Cup winners since Brazil won Group D in Qatar in 1958 and 1962.
Led by Paris Saint-Germain striker Kylian Mbappe, the French were favorites to win against Poland at Doha’s Al Soumama Stadium. But in a shock-packed World Cup with Germany and Belgium out of the group stage, subduing Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski is key to France’s hopes of avoiding another upset.
Poland’s all-time leading goalscorer will be looking to add to his meager World Cup tally with a goal against France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who will make his 142nd international appearance with Lilian Thuram is tied for the most appearances for the Blues.
France captain Lloris praised Lewandowski and his Polish counterpart Wojcie Hrszczesny, who made two fine penalty saves for his side in Group C. Second place is crucial. “Lewandowski has been one of the best No.9s in the world for many years, but they are a good unit,” Lloris said. “Szczesny was a fantastic game and Poland are in the last 16 thanks to their goalkeeper.”
If France beat Poland, their path to the World Cup final on December 18 could include a quarter-final showdown with England. Gareth Southgate’s side will meet France in the quarter-finals if they beat Senegal at the Al Bayt Stadium. England got off to a solid start four years ago by reaching the semi-finals and finishing runners-up at Euro 2020 and winning Group B in Qatar.
They believe they can win in Qatar to finally end their agonizing wait for their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup. England defender John Stones said: “It’s not about being overconfident, it’s about being humble enough to understand how well we’ve trained and how prepared the staff are and to believe in ourselves too.”
Senegal, stunned by an injury to talisman Sadio Mane ahead of the game, reached the knockout stages of the World Cup for only the second time after finishing runners-up in Group A with a 2-1 win over Ecuador on Tuesday.
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