On the path to be crowned world champions, England must end France’s reign as champions.Beating the holders has never been achieved by England at a World Cup.
France pose the ultimate test to Gareth Southgate’s side at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday evening in the quest to reach a third tournament semi-final in a row.Captain Harry Kane said: “I feel like the belief has been building and building over the last five years.”We have entered this tournament hoping and believing we can win it.”
Nullifying Qatar 2022 top-scorer Kylian Mbappe will be essential – a probable task for Kyle Walker.
Kyle Walker and Kylian Mbappe last went head-to-head during a Champions League game in September 2021. Pic: AP
Southgate said: “Kyle is ready. We are talking about one of the opposition, but France are a fantastic team and we are aware of all of their players.”
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Not only has Mbappe scored five of France’s nine goals here, he’s set up another two of them.Then there’s the often under-appreciated Olivier Giroud.
Jordan Henderson celebrates scoring against Senegal
Three goals from the 36-year-old have taken the former Arsenal and Chelsea striker to a record 52 goals for France.And there’s the familiar face in the France goal – with Hugo Lloris spending the last decade in London at Tottenham.”Most of our players know them very well,” the France captain said. “We’re used to playing against them.”For some of us of course, we play and train with them on a daily basis in England and if we can help our teammates with any particular knowledge we have about them, then of course we do that.”On set pieces, yes, that’s one of their strengths, they’re very tall and they have some good players who take good free kicks. I think every little detail is going to count.”Read moreWorld Cup: Harry Kane says England are ready for ‘really tough’ quarter-finalReasons to be cheerful – three good omens for England ahead of France World Cup clash
For England, that will be maintaining solidity at the back.The only goals conceded were in the 6-2 opening win against Iran – when the match was already won. Clean sheets have been kept in the three games since then.Up front, England have not been reliant on Kane, who is one goal from matching Wayne Rooney’s 53-goal national record.Just one of England’s 12 goals has come from the captain – with eight different scorers to France’s three. Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcastsAnd Kane feels that the Euro 2020 finalists have “more belief” than in Russia in 2018 when they were denied by Croatia the chance to take on France in the final.Croatia could yet be finalists again after reaching the semi-finals – by stunning Brazil in a penalty shootout to set up a meeting with Argentina, who defeated the Netherlands in the quarters.The semi-final opponents for England or France will be Portugal or Morocco.