Starting Teams – The key match-ups in the England v France
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Football fans will be salivating as two of the World Cup pre-tournament favourites face off in a mouth-watering quarter-final match-up at Al Bayt Stadium this weekend. France and England have firepower right across the park, and given their performances in their respective round of 16 fixtures – their match-up in the final eight has the potential to be one of the most entertaining games of the tournament.
Both squads are incredibly talented and almost like-for-like when it comes to depth, which is why it’s imperative that each manager implements the right gameplan to maximise their team’s strengths and limit their opposition’s.
With that in mind, read on as we take a look at the key match-ups each manager will have to examine closely if their team is to reign supreme on Saturday.
For those following the England v France betting odds, France are the favourites at 5/4, while the Three Lions are slight underdogs at 2/1.
Kylian Mbappe/Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker has arguably the most daunting assignment of anyone on the pitch. The English right-back will have to mark France’s winger Kylian Mbappe, who has further solidified himself as a top five player in the world at this year’s World Cup, scoring on five occasions and assisting on two. If Walker provides the 23-year-old phenom with too much room to move on the flank – he will pick the Three Lions’ defence apart.
While limiting Mbappe’s impact is easier said than done, Walker is the only player in England’s back four who can somewhat match the Frenchman’s speed. Therefore, if the Manchester City veteran can apply pressure in a disciplined manner and use physicality against the slenderer Mbappe – it may not be as much of a one-way battle as many people are expecting.
Jude Bellingham/Adrien Rabiot
This match-up in the midfield will be an interesting one. Both are athletic and boast precise passing skills, and they are often the driving force behind their teams’ attacking raids. With both outfits possessing world-class players upfront, the winner of this game could be determined by which of the aforementioned midfielders can provide the best service.
Both have been in great form at in Qatar – however it was Bellingham’s performance in England’s round of 16 clash against Senegal that stands out. The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star was brilliant, assisting on a goal and playing a key role in another en route to a dominant 3-0 victory. Although Rabiot’s display in France’s round of 16 3-1 win over Poland wasn’t as eye-popping as Bellingham’s, the Juventus midfielder distributed well and controlled the tempo of play for large chunks of the contest.
Jordan Pickford/Hugo Lloris
While they will be on opposite ends of the pitch, the goalkeepers for each team will be two of the most important players on the night. With the likes of Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden upfront for England – and Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann the goalscoring threats for Les Bleus – both keepers need to be prepared for a busy night.
That’s even without mentioning the real possibility that the game goes to penalties. With not much separating both squads, the team progressing to the semi-final could be decided at the spot – and it’s England’s Jordan Pickford who has the edge in that department – with the Everton keeper saving 11 penalties from 53 tries (20.7%), compared to Hugo Lloris’ 16 saves from 108 tries (14.8%).