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Weekend Review: Enigmatic England roar ahead in a killer knockout weekend for punters

All four favourites progress in the World Cup knockout stages as the tournament tips back in the punters’ favour

It was the ultimate punter’s weekend in the World Cup as the four favourites France, the Netherlands, Argentina and England all progressed to the quarter-finals.

England (3/5) eased into the last eight with a resounding 3-0 victory over Senegal (11/2) in what was the biggest margin of victory in the knockout rounds so far.

After a nervy opening 30 minutes, Jude Bellingham latched onto a Harry Kane pass before cutting back to Jordan Henderson, who slotted it past Edouard Mendy.

England doubled their lead through Kane, who bagged his first goal at this year’s tournament, before the scoring was rounded off by Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, who met a Phil Foden cross to dink it over the outstretched Mendy.

Betfred’s Alan Firkins said: “This slightly weird yet totally compelling World Cup just took off like a rocket. England were very ordinary for half an hour against Senegal on Sunday, then, out of nowhere, crafted three beautiful goals and cruised into the last eight.”

The Three Lions’ victory has set up a crunch match in the quarter-finals with reigning world champions France (2/5) after Les Bleus saw off a spirited Poland (8/1) 3-1 at the Al Thumama Stadium.

Didier Deschamp’s side had to rely on yet another dazzling performance from Kylian Mbappe to see them over the line in this history-making tie. When he put France ahead just before half-time, veteran forward Olivier Giroud became his country’s all-time leading goalscorer, before two goals from Mbappe sealed passage to the next round.

Robert Lewandowski scored a consolation penalty at the second attempt to give Orły fans something to cheer as they exit the tournament.

Bet365’s Steve Freeth commented: “We didn’t want Deschamps’ side to win 3-1, so you can imagine the cheers in our trading room when Hugo Lloris saved Robert Lewandowski’s late penalty. Unfortunately for us, he was given a second chance to score a consolation goal, and he duly obliged, giving us our worst result of the tournament to date – overtaking France’s 2-1 victory over Denmark in the group stages.”

There is also a tantalising quarter-final between two stalwarts of the international game in the shape of Argentina and the Netherlands.

Argentina (1/4) booked their place with a nailbiting 2-1 win over Australia (8/1) as Lionel Messi stole the show with a sparkling display. Messi opened the scoring in the 35th minute before Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez looked to have sealed Argentina’s safe passage into the next round. However, an own goal from Enzo Fernandez set up a nervy finish as the Aussies took Argentina to the wire.

The Netherlands secured their place with a Denzel Dumfries-inspired 3-1 win over the USA. Memphis Depay opened the scoring with his first tournament goal, with Dumfries grabbing the assist. Dumfries was on hand again to assist Daley Blind’s strike in first-half injury time. The Inter Milan fullback grabbed a much-deserved goal just after Haji Wright pulled the USA back into the game.

Kindred Group’s Ali Gill remarked: “We managed to squeeze a profit out of Argentina’s win over Australia due to price and patriotic punters down under. All four fancied teams did the business; there were plenty of goals, no draws, everyone scored with the exception of Senegal, and even then Harry Kane on the scoresheet wasn’t one that helped. All told, after a tough group stage for punters, the knockouts have started very much in their favour.”

In the Golden Boot race, it is Mbappe who looks to be running away with it as he took his total to five goals in the tournament so far. Kyle Walker will have a tough task on his hands on Saturday as the forward looks to become the first Frenchman to win the Golden Boot since Just Fontaine won it in 1958 with 13 goals.

Ladbrokes’ Alex Apati said: “Kylian Mbappe has pulled away some in the Golden Boot race; bad news for the many Kane backers.”

Looking to the outrights, Freeth revealed: “We were pleased to see England keep a clean sheet in a game with only one card shown, so we didn’t celebrate that until Ivan Barton blew the full time whistle, but the Three Lions have overtaken Brazil and moved into second place behind Argentina in our outright liabilities with France standing in the way of a last four spot.”

Firkins noted England had moved into joint-third favourites alongside Argentina, with Brazil and France the shortest prices heading into the quarter-finals.

In horseracing, Honeysuckle was upstaged by the Jack Kennedy-ridden Teahupoo at Fairyhouse as the mare’s fantastic winning run came to an end.

The 4/11 favourite was unable to win the Grade 1 for a record fourth time, leaving punters and fans disappointed.

Honeysuckle had to settle for third in the race as the aforementioned Teahupoo and Klassical Dream finished first and second, respectively.

On Honeysuckle’s run, trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “It’s a horse race and unfortunately, she got beaten, and that’s it. We’ve had some run with her for so long, and there we go. They’re going to get beaten one day. She’s been incredible and fair play to the winner.”

Firkins added: “The great Honeysuckle was surprisingly beaten in Ireland on Sunday, leaving Constitution Hill a very warm order (1/3) for the Champion Hurdle in March.”

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