Jude Bellingham insists England’s young stars are ready to test themselves against the very best after they set up a tantalising World Cup quarter-final against holders France.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder was a shining light in an England performance bursting with confidence as they saw off Senegal 3-0 in the last 16 at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday night.
Bellingham laid on the opening goal for Jordan Henderson before leading the break which saw Harry Kane double England’s lead on the stroke of half-time.
Bukayo Saka’s third of the tournament wrapped up a routine victory to set up a last-eight clash against the reigning world champions next Saturday.
France star Kylian Mbappe moved on to five goals in Qatar following a brace in Les Bleus’ 3-1 win over Poland earlier in the day.
But Bellingham is keen to pit himself against a team full of players who have won the game’s biggest prizes.
“I think we’re getting to that point now, confidence-wise, we think that we can try and take on anyone,” the 19-year-old replied when asked if England were becoming world beaters.
“That’s important when we’re playing because we play with a fearlessness especially as young boys, we don’t really care about who we’re playing against
“For Bukayo, it’s really great again to see him score, it shows that the manager can pick any of the attacking players and they’ll all deliver and that for us is brilliant, especially as a midfield player. So, long may it continue.”
Asked about his pivotal role in the Senegal win, Bellingham told beIN Sports: “I think you can ask any of the other 10 boys that to be honest, the work they’ve put in tonight to get everyone’s qualities out is brilliant.
“Everyone’s played a massive role, everyone’s showed so much quality, spirit, character in all of the four games and it’s important that we carry on now to the end of the tournament.
“We have many really good attacking quality players who will probably take all the limelight as they should. But for me, it’s just about playing my role in the team and trying to win the game.
“Mbappe is a brilliant player, one of the top two, three, possibly one in the world so to test myself against him and the rest of the other quality players will be a pleasure and we’re looking forward to the game.”
While he would not play up his own importance to the win, Bellingham was lauded by his England colleagues, with Phil Foden saying the teenager could go to the very top.
“I don’t want to big up Jude Bellingham too much because he’s still young, but he’s one of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen,” he told ITV Sport.
“I don’t see a weakness in his game. He’s got everything, and he’s going to be the best midfielder in the world, for sure.”
Bellingham’s midfield partner Declan Rice added: “He’s thriving on the main stage.
“It makes me happy to see that. When you have a player like that who is so strong and athletic and creating the chances he’s creating.
“He’s been doing it at Dortmund all season and now he’s doing it for us.”
Bellingham was also keen to highlight the performances of Henderson and admits he cannot understand criticism of the Liverpool midfielder.
He said: “I was really happy for him to be fair. I know he gets a little bit of stick for playing and honestly, I can’t understand it for the life of me.
“He’s played so well in these last two games and it’s a pleasure playing with him.”
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