England v Senegal: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
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Hungary's record of 27 goals at a single World Cup is probably just about safe, but make no mistake: England are coming for the Qatar scoring title. With four games played, Gareth Southgate's side have already already matched the tally of the 2006 world champions and blown by Spain's tally on the way to glory in South Africa four years later. England have 12 goals to their name at the World Cup. No one else has hit double figures.

The title of England's own Golden Boot winner promises to be fiercely contested with Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford on three. Harry Kane might be two off them, but after his best performance of the tournament so far, his teammates can rest assured that he will be looking for more goals to go with his three assists.

To see such numbers, one might assume that this is a free-flowing side making chances at will, imposing their will on opposition and fizzing the ball from one end of the pitch to another in only a few short passes. In patches it can be, but this is a team as capable of scoring with the beauty and precision of Saka and Jordan Henderson as it is spending half an hour with no real idea how to progress the ball out of their own third. In a heartbeat, they can switch from sufferball to the pleasure principle.

That is at least progress for a side that reached the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup and the final of Euro 2020 by turning its matches into shot-lite struggles, trusting that Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling could be the difference in a match of one expected goal (xG) and change. A year on from their near miss at Wembley, the Three Lions do at least have ideas on how to create overloads on the flanks, advance through the opposition press -- though that took some time coming in the 3-0 win over Senegal -- and exploit third man runs.

At the heart of their revival is Jude Bellingham, a do-it-all midfielder that England have had to do without for a decade as some sort of karmic retribution for being unable to get Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes to work together. As Phil Foden put it: "I don't want to big him up too much because he is still young, but he's one of the most gifted players I have ever seen. He has no weakness in his game. I think he will be the best midfielder in the world."

You might have bigged him up there, Phil. But how can you not get carried away watching a player who can take the ball from his own danger area, drive up through a physical midfield as if they aren't there and then play a pass to Foden at just the right moment -- a moment of pressure on the England goal becoming Kane's first goal of the tournament.

It is notable that the only team to have kept a clean sheet against England at this tournament did so in part by marking Bellingham out of the game. The USMNT ensured that if the Borussia Dortmund midfielder turned, it was straight into Tyler Adams or Yunus Musah. On that occasion, England did not seem to twig that there were gaps to attack down the flanks. On Sunday, they showed greater reactivity, Jordan Pickford opting to hoof his goal kicks long when Senegal's frontline blocked up the out-balls for John Stones and Harry Maguire. 

That showed a game intelligence that has often been lacking at the biggest tournaments. But across the side, there is still a way to go in terms of truly dominating contests. A team that averaged 1.57 xG per game at Euro 2020 has now hit the heady heights of 1.61. It is, at best, steady growth.

Their xG return of 6.42 is on a par with Brazil having played a game less and they are averaging half an xG fewer than France per game. They scrape the tournament's top 10 in terms of shots per match and do rather the same in terms of the percentage of their moves that end in the final third. They are still not a team that asserts themselves on opponents when the game is live, not one that pin you deep as Spain do.

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Perhaps that does not matter a great deal when you have a collection of forwards who are all hitting a hot moment at just the right time. Rashford's three goals have come from 1.2 xG, Saka's from 1.1. Kane and Foden are scoring on par with the quality of their chances and none of their forwards have offered any evidence for club or country that they are struggling for form. That does not mean that they cannot be hit by the vagaries of variance or poor form at any moment; the joy of the depth Southgate has in forward areas is that if Saka has an off day then Rashford, Jack Grealish or James Maddison can enter the fray.

How many of them will be called upon against France on Sunday is an open question. For once, Southgate's critics might find it hard to condemn the England manager if he switched to a back three against the reigning world champions, adding ballast to the right flank in an attempt to tame Kylian Mbappe (though Kyle Walker has all the skills required to at least keep pace with the tournament's leading scorer). The three-goal-a-game streak almost certainly will not last into the business end of the competition, but then we already know that this team has a more conservative route to getting results in tournament football. It never hurts to have a Plan B, even if the default blueprint is not that dissimilar.