England v France - Keys to the game




 

Defending champions France take on England on Saturday in their World Cup quarter-final. Here are the key battles and tactical challenges:

- Can England stop Mbappe? -

Kylian Mbappe is top scorer in the tournament with five goals and is the top out-and-out forward in the world. So, if England don't find a way to limit his impact, they are going to struggle to win.

The focus has been on whether right-back Kyle Walker can contain the Frenchman and he has matured into an outstanding defender, combining excellent reading of the game with his natural speed.

But France coach Didier Deschamps has given Mbappe a licence to roam and he often takes full advantage of that liberty.

So even if Walker is effective, Mbappe is likely to switch to the opposite side against Luke Shaw. How will Shaw, with less pace than Walker, cope? Mbappe may also drift into central positions, closer to Olivier Giroud, giving John Stones and Harry Maguire a double problem. England won't want to leave Maguire in particular, vulnerable to Mbappe's speed.

- England's wing threat -

If there is a French weakness that England could exploit then it is in the wide areas, where full-backs Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez face a real test against Southgate's range of wide options.

Kounde's preferred position is at centre-back while Hernandez's qualities are best seen in the attacking side of his game and there are question marks over the expertise of the pair in the traditional defensive arts of the full-back.

England used Phil Foden on the left and Bukayo Saka down the right in the last 16 win against Senegal and they also have wingers Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish ready to enter from the bench. Southgate appears to like the option of Saka using his pace and running to tire out a defender before bringing on Rashford to take advantage in the latter stages of a game.

The more open the game is and the higher the tempo, the more likely it is that England will be able to get the most out of their wide players and create opportunities for the prolific Harry Kane. Slowing England down and crowding the inside channels could be France's best way of making sure goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has a quiet day.

- Midfield battle -

Antoine Griezmann has successfully evolved from a wide-attacker or support striker into a deeper role as the main creative midfielder for France and he has the ability to dictate play and provide killer passes.

Up against him, England use Declan Rice as their defensive midfield 'shield' but he missed England's training session on Wednesday due to an unspecified illness.

Against Senegal, Southgate set up his midfield with Rice behind Jordan Henderson and Jude Bellingham with the latter so impactful in an advanced role. The question is whether Bellingham is again given such freedom or if he is forced into a more defensive role?

France lost their World Cup winning midfield pair of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante to injury before the tournament but the fears that would fatally weaken them in the central areas have not materialised. Adrien Rabiot has had an excellent tournament ably supported by Aurelien Tchouameni and with the addition of Griezmann there is a nice balance to the midfield.

- Will bench be a factor? -

One area where England appear to have a clear advantage is in the options from the bench. Rashford and Grealish coming into play for the final 20 minutes gives Southgate the option of totally refreshing his attack without sacrificing quality.

At the back, if one of the full-backs struggles against Mbappe or Dembele then Kieran Trippier is an experienced alternative. If England are lacking creativity in their midfield then Mason Mount or James Maddison can be introduced in the No.10 role.

France have players who can certainly be capable substitutes in case of injury but few game-changers. With five subs available, England's advantage could really count if the game remains tight in the latter stages or goes to extra-time.

But the role of the bench will count for little if England aren't able to constrain Mbappe and the potent French attack.

sev/rcw

COMMENTS

More Related News

'No excuses' for Arsenal in title bid after January spending: Arteta

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal can have no excuses if they do not win the Premier League title for the first time in two decades after strengthening their squad during the January transfer window.Arteta was asked on Friday about whether there would now be no excuses if Arsenal failed to get over the line.

Mbappe injury hits PSG at crunch time in season
Mbappe injury hits PSG at crunch time in season

An injury to a key player is once again threatening to derail a Champions League campaign for Paris Saint-Germain with Kylian Mbappe having been ruled out of the first leg of their last-16 tie against Bayern Munich.While he will hope to be back in time for the second leg of that Champions League tie against Bayern on March 8, PSG must now hope that the presence of Lionel Messi and Neymar can be enough for them in the first game against the Germans on February 14.

'Extraordinary' milestone marks Barca charge as Sevilla visit

Barcelona welcome Sevilla to Camp Nou on Sunday high on confidence and leading La Liga with the milestone of 50 points at the halfway stage of the season.If Sampaoli's side are to maintain their improvement, they will have to do the near impossible -- score against Barcelona at Camp Nou.

PSG lose injured Mbappe for first leg of Bayern Champions League tie
PSG lose injured Mbappe for first leg of Bayern Champions League tie

Kylian Mbappe faces three weeks out with a thigh injury and will miss the first leg of Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League last-16 tie against Bayern Munich on February 14, his club announced Thursday.The France star was hurt during the first half of Wednesday's 3-1 win at Montpellier in Ligue 1 having earlier had two penalties saved.PSG coach Christophe Galtier had initially suggested Mbappe had suffered a knock to the back of the knee rather than a muscle injury, but tests have since confirmed the true extent of the problem."After undergoing tests, Kylian Mbappe suffered an injury to the left thigh at the level of the femoral biceps," said a club statement.If he misses three weeks as...

Log burner rule change in England could land users with £300 fines
Log burner rule change in England could land users with £300 fines

The tightening of regulations may lead to criminal records for those flouting them, a new policy says.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Soccer