Football

World Cup 2022: Southgate readying Three Lions for France and Mbappe test

England made little work of impressive Senegal to progress in the World Cup. They have set a quarter-final meeting with France, who dominated Poland in their Round of 16 meeting. 

Kyllian Mbappe

Jordan Henderson opened the scoring against the African Cup of Nations winners in the 38th minute. Harry Kane scored 10 minutes later to open his account for Qatar 2022 and double the Three Lions lead. Bukayo Saka completed the rout in the second half despite a triple change from Aliou Cisse. 

The Al Bayt Stadium ruptured with excitement on Saturday as England forced their way for a meeting with the defending champions. The prospect of an early meeting with Les Bleus was welcomed by Gareth Southgate, who wants the Three Lions to triumph over in the historic rivalry.  

“It’s the biggest test that we can face,” England boss Southgate said. “They’re world champions, incredible depth of talent, outstanding individual players, very difficult to play against and to score goals against.

“It’s a fantastic challenge, brilliant game for us to prepare for. The two quarter-finals that are already in place are fantastic, historic football rivalries and great games from the past.

“A brilliant game for us to be involved with and test ourselves against the very best.”

Special Praise for Mbappe and Giroud

In their Round of 16 outings, France eased past Poland and Robert Lewandowski. It was a Kyllian Mbappe masterclass as the Poles were second best in the meeting. 

The PSG forward released Olivier Giroud for their opener just before the break. The goal allowed Giroud to go past Thierry Henry and establish himself as France’s all-time top-scorer.

For their next two goals, Mbappe took matters in his own hands. A fantastic movement saw Ousmane Dembele set the 23-year-old free in Poland’s area. He finished into the top of the net to double their lead and avoid unnerving moments.

For France’s final goal, it was pure inspiration from Mbappe who received the ball from Marcus Thuram inside the bow. A couple of touches allowed him space to target the top-right corner and the ball followed suit. 

Southgate hailed the French talisman’s performance and admitted Didier Deschamps has more in his arsenal. The England manager pointed at the heroics of Antoine Greizmann and Olivier Giroud to make his point. 

Olivier Giroud“Of course (Mbappe) is a world-class player and has already delivered big moments in this tournament and in previous tournaments,” Southgate said.

“But there’s also, I think (Antoine) Griezmann is now over 70 consecutive games for France and I think he’s also a phenomenal player.

“We know Olivier Giroud so well and they have outstanding young midfield players as well.

“So, everywhere you look when we’re studying France at every age group, they have incredible depth of talent in every position.

“It’s a huge test but one that we’re really looking forward to and it’s a great challenge for our team now.”

France has the bragging rights in their duels with England. Four of their last six H2H encounters finished in favour of Les Bleus and one draw. The Three Lions’ one victory in this period was earned back in November 2015, a time when Wayne Rooney was still playing and Delle Ali did not flatter to deceive. 

 

About the author

Owais Khan

Profiling the beautiful game for over a decade, Awais is a business analyst turned sports writer. He has covered football in the maidans of Pakistan and has transitioned to watching 1860 Munich in 3. Liga.