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England tops Senegal at the World Cup, and look what’s coming next

Harry Kane and England advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals with a win over Senegal on Sunday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

KHOR, Qatar — Here comes a World Cup quarterfinal between England and France. Use noise-canceling ear buds as desired.

The two bastions of decibels and attention have wandered this world hunting goals for 16 World Cups each yet have run into each other only twice. Now there will be a third time coming Saturday and a first time in 40 years — and there will be five long, loud days to ponder the third time.

Go hide in a forest as desired.

Once England created three picturesque goals to best Senegal, 3-0, on Sunday night before 65,985 at Al Bayt Stadium in the Qatari north, the puckish brackets nodded for a colossus. The defending World Cup champion (France) with the most alluring player among 8 billion in the favorite game of those 8 billion (Kylian Mbappé) will oppose an England team that has spent the past two World Cups redecorating its old, dreary self.

Kylian Mbappé, France’s joyful star, shines in a World Cup win over Poland

“If you want to win the World Cup,” England captain Harry Kane said afterward, “you have to play the best sides in the world, and France is definitely one of them.”

Luckily, England will bring along Jude Bellingham, the fabulous 19-year-old pup from Stourbridge in England’s West Midlands whose kinetic skill and know-how while enabling the first two goals make it rather a case of tremendous gall that he has not yet deigned to reach 19½.

A loud England World Cup squad has a quiet leader in Harry Kane

“I don’t think we could have predicted how quickly he would mature,” said Gareth Southgate, the England manager since 2016 and the most accomplished of the 10 managers who have held that unenviable job this young century. “Even in the last six months, that’s gone to another level and even in the last three months.”

“Yeah, for sure he’s up there,” Kane said of all the teenage players he has seen.

“I think the biggest thing is the mentality,” Southgate said, noting “the mind-set, the drive, the desire to improve,” all of which flows through Bellingham and seems to add up to an élan beyond his years in a player who looks thoroughly comfortable in his skin while on the most gigantic stages.

He started things just after team elder Kane started things, in the 38th minute, to the sound of the Senegalese drum corps that graced the match with its usual and astonishing endurance. Kane threaded a beauty from near midfield to Bellingham on the left, and Bellingham bolted on down the side into the box until he timed an impeccable left-footed cross. It reached Jordan Henderson as if it knew just what to do, and Henderson quickly pulled it left-footed just to the right of one of the world’s best goalkeepers, Edouard Mendy of Chelsea.

Henderson and Bellingham ran into the corner together from two eras, ages 32 and 19, and pressed together their foreheads in generational unity as the England fans at one end of the stadium bounced madly to the late-last-century pop song that makes them bounce madly, Gala’s “Freed From Desire.”

“As you saw today,” Kane said at his post-match news conference, “we’ve got people scoring from all different positions, which I think is really important as you’re going into the late stages of the tournament.”

Eight men have scored for England, but as of the announcement of two minutes of first-half stoppage time, none of those had been Kane, who brought his 51 all-time England goals to Qatar as two shy of Wayne Rooney’s record.

Then, just as those two minutes creaked into a third, England vs. France came to look cemented. Senegal committed some sloppiness in the England end, and Bellingham cleaned it up and went roaming up the field toward the middle. When he got there, he saw Phil Foden clear on the left and shipped a pass over there so Foden could one-touch it back over to a charging Kane.

World Cup bracket and knockout round schedule

Kane, 29, nudged the ball gently with his right boot and let it settle as the picture showed only himself and a goalkeeper, a scene well-known as ominous. It bounced once, twice, thrice, then rolled gently and briefly as onlookers might have wondered whether Kane over-waited on the right side of the box — except that then, boom, he blasted it left past Mendy’s right side.

“That was really difficult to take,” said Aliou Cisse, the accomplished former Senegal player and two-World Cup manager.

“That really killed the match in some way,” Cisse said of the third England goal, in the 57th minute on a nifty touch by Bukayo Saka, himself just 21, on a swell cross from Foden, himself just 22.

The World Cup feels richer with African teams back in round of 16

“We’ve worked for years now at being the best African side,” Cisse said, “but now we were playing the top five in the world, and I think you could see the difference.” Still, he spoke of a bold future with greater investment from African nations, and he knew his team had earned respect all told without the extraordinary Sadio Mané, injured last month in a matter of spiteful fate while playing for his German club, Bayern Munich. “A player of his caliber, I’ve been saying since the beginning of the tournament, of course we missed him greatly,” Cisse said. “But I think we had a strong team anyway, and I think we showed we belong.”

They had, but with their final match killed, England clearly would play France in the World Cup for the first time in the knockout stage — and the first time at all since Spain 1982 (a 3-1 England win in group play in Bilbao), the second since England’s triumphant year of 1966 (a 2-0 England win in group play before 98,270 at London’s Wembley Stadium). Southgate called this one “the biggest test we could face,” and in a nation where it’s okay to disagree, nobody disagreed.

If you could set aside the coming noise for just a moment, you might notice that England also heads for its second straight quarterfinal after a group-play exit in 2014 and a round-of-16 shooing in 2010. It reached the semifinals last time — in Russia in 2018.

England had redefined itself, and if it reaches the semifinals again, cup your ears as desired.

World Cup in Qatar

World champions: Argentina has won the World Cup, defeating France in penalty kicks in a thrilling final in Lusail, Qatar, for its first world championship since 1986. Argentina was led by global soccer star Lionel Messi in what is expected to be his final World Cup appearance. France was bidding to become the first repeat champion since Brazil won consecutive trophies in 1958 and 1962.

Today’s WorldView: In the minds of many critics, especially in the West, Qatar’s World Cup will always be a tournament shrouded in controversy. But Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, wants people to take another view.

Perspective: “America is not a men’s soccer laughingstock right now. It’s onto something, and it’s more attuned to what’s working for the rest of the world rather than stubbornly forcing an American sports culture — without the benefit of best-of-the-best talent — into international competition.” Read Jerry Brewer on the U.S. men’s national team’s future.

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