Gareth Southgate is aiming to become the first ever England manager to reach two consecutive World Cup semi-finals.
England secured their place in the World Cup quarter-final after a resounding 3-0 victory over Senegal in the last 16. The game saw England talisman Harry Kane get his first goal of the tournament while Bukayo Saka and Jordan Henderson also got their name on the scoresheet.
The Three Lions have been the highest scoring team at the World Cup so far with an impressive 12 goals across their opening four games - equalling the all time record previously set by Southgate’s men four years ago. Many England supporters are dreaming of going all the way in Qatar and young lions such as Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice and Phil Foden are amongst the players to receive critical acclaim by football experts.
Attention will now turn to a mouth-watering clash against reigning world champions France. Didier Deschamps side will provide tough opposition for the Three Lions and they are blessed with a host of elite players including the tournament’s top scorer Kylian Mbappe, France’s all time leading goalscorer Oliver Giroud and pacey Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele.
England will need to be at their best to beat a star-studded French team and will be hoping to get another step closer to ending their 56 year wait for a major trophy. But who will England face in the semi-final if they are to defeat France?
Who are England’s potential semi-final opponents?
If England are to advance to the last four of the tournament then they will face the winner of the other quarter-final game between Morocco and Portugal.
Morocco have reached the quarter-final for the first time in their history.
The North African side have proven to be the surprise package of Qatar 2022 - they began the tournament with an impressive 0-0 draw against 2018 finalists Croatia, before outclassing the golden generation of Belgium with a 2-0 victory. Morocco secured top spot in the group with a 2-1 victory over Canada in their final group game to earn themselves a place in the knockout stages for the first time since 1986.
Morocco were handed a difficult tie in the round of 16 against 2010 winners Spain. Luis Enrique’s side were amongst many people’s favourites for the tournament after a 7-0 victory against Costa Rica in their opener and progressed from the group stage as runners-up.
The Atlas Lions held Spain to a 0-0 draw and have earnt plaudits from several pundits for their organised backline and ability to survive sustained spells of pressure. Meanwhile on the counter attack, Morocco showed they can cause problems with Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech and former Southampton winger Sofian Boufal.
The game between Morocco and Spain was ultimately decided by a penalty shootout. Heading into the game Spain manager Enrique told his players they would need to practise 1000 penalties with their club, before heading on international duty. However, despite the practice Spain failed to put it to fruition on the big occasion and Morocco ran out 3-0 winners in the shootout with right back Achraf Hakimi scoring the decisive penalty with a panenka chip down the middle of the goal.
Morocco will face Portugal in the quarter-final stage of the tournament and are aiming to become the first African side in World Cup history to make the semi-final of a World Cup.
Morocco will enter the game as underdogs but have a stubborn backline which European heavyweights Belgium, Croatia and Spain have all failed to break down. They will enter the game determined to cause another upset.
Portugal produced a statement performance against Switzerland to announce themselves as tournament contenders and secure their place in the semi-final.
The Euro 2016 champions began their Qatar campaign in style with victories over Uruguay and Ghana in their opening two games. Portugal rotated their team slightly for their final group game against South Korea and fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat. Despite the poor result Fernando Santo’s side still prevailed from the group in first place.
Portugal were drawn against fellow European side Switzerland in the round of 16. Santo’s team entered the game as favourites but were determined to avoid a repeat of the French team in Euro 2020 who were stunned by the Swiss in the round of 16.
Santo named a strong side for the game, featuring a number of elite talents such as Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes, Manchester City duo Ruben Dias and Bernado Silva, but the most eye catching decision was his move to drop five time Ballon d’Or winner and all time record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo. It is the first time that the 37-year-old had been dropped for a major tournament game since 2008.
The Portugal manager was rewarded for his decision and Ronaldo’s replacement, Goncalo Ramos registered a hat-trick and an assist during a stunning 6-1 victory over Switzerland.
Portugal will face dark horses Morocco in the quarter-final stage and will be aiming to become the first European side of the tournament to breach the North African side’s stubborn defence. Portugal last reached the World Cup semi-final in 2006 but do have experience of going deep into the tournament and ran out winners in Euro 2016.
England have a poor record against Portugal in recent major tournaments. The Three Lions were knocked out of Euro 2000 in the group stage against Portugal and also lost on penalties during the quarter-final of Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006.