England and France are the favorites for the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup. The defending champion wants to repeat the triumph of 2018. Meanwhile, England hopes to complete its five-year journey.
Given the intense quality in both teams, fans are excited about the individual battles likely to take place between England and France.
For Gareth Southgate, he just needs to find a way to limit Kylian Mbappé’s effectiveness. The Paris Saint-Germain forward is currently the best player in the world. You can’t necessarily stop him in his current form. But if you can isolate him and confine his work to large areas, you’re giving yourself a shot.
Individual battles decide England vs France
1. Kyle Walker vs Kylian Mbappe
England have no chance of reaching the semi-finals if Mbappé is allowed to dominate Saturday’s game.
He is the fastest player on the field and the most clinical finisher in the world. To stop that, you need your fastest defender.
Kyle Walker has been struggling with his fitness lately. He missed the opening match against Iran. He did return later in the group stage.
At his best, Walker is physically imposing, athletic and an offensive threat. His defensive judgment can be questioned, but being placed alongside confident centre-backs can be accepted.
Mbappé must be isolated. If he manages to run Walker ragged and cutting in on John Stones/Harry Maguire, England are in trouble.
Walker must use his pace to handcuff and force the French attacker from other areas.
2. Jude Bellingham vs Adrien Rabiot
Jude Bellingham was England’s star in Qatar. His poise and poise in midfield are spectacular. What has made him even more valuable to Southgate is the balance he brings to midfield.
His full arsenal allows Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson to focus on defensive duties. This will be necessary against France.
Rabiot is clearly the weak point in the French midfield. Didier Deschamps is unlikely to have the Juventus player at home if his squad is completely healthy.
If England wants to dominate the French, it will come through Bellingham. He can make Rabiot’s life miserable on Saturday.
He doesn’t have the pace to keep up with him and all the Juventus midfielder has at his disposal is to either foul the Dortmund star or pass him on to Aurelien Tchouameni.
3. Olivier Giroud vs Harry Maguire
Kylian Mbappé likes to play with Olivier Giroud. He has lobbied PSG to try to copy the French system and use a Giroud-style player.
France’s attacks depend heavily on the work Giroud does off the ball and on set pieces.
Harry Maguire has played well at the 2022 World Cup despite losing his spot at Manchester United.
The English defender has no top pace. Yet Giroud is not exactly an F1 car either. The pair will engage in a physical battle on Saturday.
If Maguire can bully Giroud, outsmart him and prevent him from holding the ball up and bringing Mbappé into play, then France’s attack is blunted.
Would it be worth it for Maguire to take on a man-marking role on Giroud and Rice slipping into a defensive position? Perhaps. Although Southgate is unlikely to introduce such a drastic tactical change.
Giroud is a finisher of the highest calibre. If he is released in the English penalty area, he scores. Maguire’s best asset is his close range defense. He can be physical and prevent attackers from finding space.
If Maguire can do that, it will be all the more difficult for France to reach the semi-finals.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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