The anticipation is already building ahead of Saturday. England will go into the game as narrow outsiders, but they shouldn’t fear France. They aren’t the same complete team that they were four years ago, without the midfield quality of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. Gareth Southgate will have his own selection dilemmas, which will be a nice problem to have going into a World Cup quarter final.
Jordan Henderson was a surprise selection in the last two matches. It allowed Jude Bellingham to be moved into a number ten position. The combination of those two and Declan Rice has provided good balance to the midfield. They are capable of pressing high as a unit, with Henderson’s own experiences for Liverpool helping in that aim.
During the win over Senegal, Henderson performed excellently as a box-to-box midfielder. There would have been some doubts about his ability to perform at the highest level for England. Some even suggested that he shouldn’t have been included in the squad, but the Liverpool captain has proved that he is still an important player for the Three Lions.
His desire to make driving runs behind Harry Kane was important to England carrying a threat. The first goal superbly displayed what Southgate wants from his two advanced midfielders. Jude Bellingham carried the ball forwards before playing a nice cut-back to Henderson, who finished smartly.
The energy from Henderson to get into the box was great to see and it helped put England into a strong position in the match against Senegal. Until that point, the African country were in the game and had created a few good openings. It was a good time to score. From that moment, it was a routine victory for Southgate’s side.
Henderson showed his reliability with the ball, as he completed 89% of his passes. Although this was the lowest completion rate of the three central midfielders, it is still at a good percentage.
Off the ball, Henderson was keen to press the opposition players and try to win the ball back. He completed two tackles during the game. Only Bukayo Saka (3) and Jude Bellingham (4) made more for England. For his club side, Henderson is used to playing a pressing style of play. It shouldn’t be surprising that England’s high press looks to be effective with the 32-year-old in the starting eleven.
Further to his ability on the pitch, Henderson is a leader. He has won major trophies during his career and is vocal on the pitch. The current England team is filled with leaders across the pitch, but it is useful to have Henderson in midfield. Bellingham and Declan Rice are both talented, but neither have a lot of experience at the very highest level. Both will benefit from playing with Henderson. The respect between them was clear in the celebrations for the first goal.
Southgate has a decision to make regarding the team selection for Saturday. Before the tournament, it was expected that he would play a back five when England came up against a major nation. Now, it is less clear if he will do that. It remains an option, but it would mean dropping Henderson for Kieran Trippier.
Given the impact Henderson has had, Southgate may choose to stick with the 4-3-3 formation and hope that England are good enough to outplay France.
Stats taken from Whoscored