Mbappe magic, France frailties and Bellingham brilliance: Five takeaways from day 15 of World Cup 2022

Jude Bellingham
(Image credit: Getty)

The knockout rounds are now well underway at the World Cup 2022.

France breezed through to the quarters thanks to a 3-1 victory inspired by the dazzling Kylian Mbappe. 

And later in the day, England thumped Senegal 3-0 to set up a meeting with their neighbours from across the channel. 

The last eight is already half decided. But what else did we learn on day 15 of Qatar?

Mbappe means business

Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring for France against Denmark in the teams' World Cup clash in Qatar.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After Lionel Messi turned on the magic in his 1,000th appearance on day 14, Kylian Mbappe reminded everybody who the future of football is. 

The Frenchman was sensational against Poland, who, after starting brightly, were eventually brought to their knees by a tour-de-force performance from Mbappe. 

Two goals, the second of which was a stunning curling effort into the far corner from the edge of the area, were just the tip of the iceberg. The PSG star was electric, pulling Poland players all over the place with his pace, intelligent movement and dribbling skills. 

Mbappe now has five goals in Qatar and appears to be brimming with confidence. He's moved level with compatriot Just Fontaine in terms of World Cup goals (9 in total) and you wouldn't bet against him getting plenty more before Les Bleus fly home. 

Poland highlight weaknesses in France defence

Robert Lewandowski of Poland celebrates after scoring his team's 1st goal during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 4 match between Belgium and Poland on June 8, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium.

(Image credit: Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

They may be going home after losing in the last-16 to France, but Poland leave with their heads held high. 

Few pundits gave Robert Lewandowski & Co. any hope against the holders, but they impressed - particularly in the first half - thanks to ballsy tactics. Poland pressed high and with surprising intensity in the opening stages, and forced France's defenders into a series of early mistakes. Hugo Lloris, who is less assured than some with the ball at his feet, was almost caught napping in one press, and Poland should have taken the lead early on. 

Their performance should provide a useful lesson to Gareth Southgate, whose England will face France in the last eight. The temptation might be sit to back and try and hit France on the counter but, on this evidence, a high press might be the key to success. 

Kane on the brink

Harry Kane scores against Senegal

(Image credit: Getty)

Harry Kane's slow start in Qatar saw talk of the Spurs marksman breaking Wayne Rooney's England goal-scoring record flicker out. The 29 year old failed to net in any of England's group games and looked to have left his shooting boots back in London when he boarded the plane. 

But a thumping finish to put England 2-nil up against Senegal reminded Three Lions fans just how close he is to officially being crowned his nation's greatest goal scorer. 

Kane finished the game on 52 strikes in 79 appearances - a remarkable record - and leaves him just one shy of Rooney's benchmark. With a game against France up next, the odds of him taking Rooney's crown in Qatar look diminished, but even if he fails in the Middle East it's now certain he'll manage the feat in the not-too-distant future. 

Bellingham can do it all

Jude Bellingham

(Image credit: Getty)

Jude Bellingham was inserted into England's midfield plans only a short time before the World Cup kicked off. Indeed, had it not been a serious injury to Kalvin Phillips, the Borussia Dortmund schemer wouldn't have been a starter for Gareth Southgate's side in Qatar.

Bellingham has seized his opportunity with both hands, and it's now impossible to fathom an England best-XI that doesn't include the Birmingham-born youngster. 

Mist remarkable has been his versatility. He bang the tournament as a deep-lying midfielder, tasked with supporting Declan Rice at the base of midfield and dictating play from deep. A goal on his World Cup debut, and plenty of plaudits followed. But, since that jaw-dropping performance against Iran, Bellingham has been moved around. He's played as a box-tobox midfielder and, against Senegal, as a No.10. 

Bellingham's quality in possession, power and eye for a pass were crucial in both Jordan Henderson's opener and Kane's strike. He's the complete midfielder. Who cares where he plays, as long as he does.

Morocco now carry the can for Africa 

Kalidou Koulibaly

(Image credit: Getty)

Africa had five teams in the hat when this tournament began - Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, Tunisia and Morocco. Now, only the latter remain. Senegal toiled against England but, without the cutting edge of Sadio Mane, they eventually came unstuck, just as others had done before them. 

Now Morocco will be aiming to save some face for Africa. They face Spain in their last-16 clash on Tuesday, but will be considered huge underdogs for the clash despite their fantastic defensive record so far. Fail to win, and no African sides will feature in the quarter-finals. 

Pele once remarked, "An African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000." It's now 22 years later, and that statement remains a distant dream. 

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Weekend editor

Ben Hayward is Weekend Editor for FourFourTwo. A European football writer with over 15 years’ experience, he has covered games all over the world - including three World Cups, several Champions League finals, Euros, Copa América - and has spent much of that time in Spain. He currently divides his time between Barcelona and London.