AL KHOR, Qatar — Like all great strikers, Harry Kane's timing was perfect.
The England captain got off the mark Sunday, scoring his first goal at this year's World Cup in a 3-0 victory over Senegal that set up a must-see match against France in the quarterfinals.
"I was waiting patiently to try to score, and thankfully that was today," said Kane, who was the leading scorer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. "I feel good, and hopefully this can start a good run for me personally, because I know that will help the team as well."
It certainly was a good time for Kane to end his dry spell in Qatar, because France's Kylian Mbappe, the tournament's leading scorer with five goals, is waiting to face England on Saturday at Al Bayt Stadium.
With that in mind, England could do with its most prolific striker at his sharpest.
"It is the biggest test that we can face," England coach Gareth Southgate said. "They are world champions, they have an incredible depth of talent, outstanding individual players, very difficult to play against and score goals against. It is a fantastic challenge.
"(Mbappe) is a world class player, has already delivered in big moments in this tournament and in previous tournaments."
Kane scored six goals at the previous World Cup, each one helping England reach the semifinals. But it has been harder this time around, with the captain having to wait until first-half stoppage time against Senegal to finally get one.
When the moment came, he never looked like missing. Head down, he powered a shot past Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to put England ahead 2-0. Then, arms spread wide, the relief poured out as he ran away in celebration.
"As a striker, scoring goals is what you do, and it's one of the best feelings you can have in football," Kane said. "The ball just sat up nicely, and the connection was perfect. I had one just before that I should have done better with, so it was nice to see that one go in."
It was Kane's 52nd goal for England, moving him within one of Wayne Rooney's national record. He also overtook Gary Lineker as his country's leading scorer in major tournaments with 11 goals.
"You could see the lift that gave him in the second half," Southgate said. "For any striker, when you haven't scored, it is there in the back of your mind and you get that lift of confidence when it comes.
"There is nobody I would rather have in that moment bearing down on goal, a really clinical finish."
England's great strength at this year's World Cup has been the amount of different goal threats it has, and another emerged on Sunday when Jordan Henderson gave his team the lead. Bukayo Saka completed the scoring with his third of the tournament.
Marcus Rashford, who has also scored three goals in Qatar, didn't even make the starting lineup.
"The great thing for us is the goals have been spread," Southgate said. "We've not been dependent upon him (Kane). It's great that we are showing another side to our attacking play."
France 3, Poland 1
DOHA, Qatar — It all seems so straightforward — laughable, perhaps — for Kylian Mbappé when it comes to the World Cup.
The France forward, who scored four goals when he led his country to the title four years ago in Russia as a 19-year-old phenom, put on yet another demonstration of how devastating he can be on the soccer field.
After it was over, Mbappé almost seemed to be chuckling as Robert Lewandowski came over to congratulate him.
Mbappé scored two goals Sunday and set up another for Olivier Giroud to lead France past Poland and move the 2018 champions within three wins of a repeat. Les Bleus have reached the quarterfinals for the third straight edition of soccer's quadrennial showcase.
"The only objective for me is to win the World Cup," Mbappé said. "The only thing I dream is this. I came here to win this World Cup. I didn't come here to win the Golden Ball or Golden Boot. If I win it, of course I'm going to be happy, but that's not why I'm here. I'm here to win, and I'm here to help the French national team."
Lewandowski, a two-time FIFA player of the year, scored from the penalty spot in second-half stoppage time for Poland.
Mbappé scored his first goal in the 74th minute when he was left unmarked to blast in a long-range shot after a counterattack. He added another in stoppage time when Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny could only get a weak glove on another powerful shot from the man in the No. 10 shirt.
"He can change a match in just a moment, and he's always playing with such joy, and we all want to share those smiles with him," France coach Didier Deschamps said. "France needed a great Kylian Mbappé tonight, and they got one."
Having also provided two assists, Mbappé has easily been the most productive player in Qatar.
Mbappé celebrated his second goal by waving his arms for the crowd to cheer louder. Then he hoisted himself up onto the crossbar shortly after the final whistle in front of France's celebrating fans.
Mbappé already has nine career World Cup goals, and if he stays healthy, he could probably play in another three editions of soccer's biggest event — meaning he might approach the tournament's career scoring record held by Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who scored 16 goals over four World Cups.
"He hurt us today, but I am cheering for him because he is a real star," Poland coach Czesław Michniewicz said through a translator. "I'm talking about (Lionel) Messi, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, Lewandowski. If someone is going to take over, I think Mbappé will be the player to be the best one (for) many years."
No country has repeated as World Cup champions in six decades — since Brazil achieved the feat by securing consecutive trophies in 1958 and 1962. Italy is the only other nation to have won two straight, in 1934 and 1938.
While Lewandowski is a prolific scorer himself, he has never come close to winning a major title with a team that struggles to get him the ball.
Mbappé, by contrast, is supported by a large array of talented players — even though half a dozen of France's players are out injured.
The French team took the lead when Mbappé threaded a pass to Giroud and the AC Milan striker quickly slotted the ball into the far corner. It was Giroud's 52nd career international goal, breaking a tie with Thierry Henry on France's all-time scoring list.
After Mbappé leaped into Giroud's arms to celebrate, pumping his fists, Giroud held up seven fingers to the cameras: five on one hand and two on the other for "52."