England v France promises to be ‘game of tournament’ so far

Mbappe scores twice as France beat Denmark 2-1 in World Cup Group D

Reigning champion France faces England in Al Bayt on Sunday for a place in the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup in what promises to be the game of the tournament so far.

Both sides reached the quarterfinals in fine style, with Kylian Mbappe producing a masterclass as France beat a dogged Poland side 3-1, while England overcame a slow start before finding top gear in their 3-0 victory over Senegal.

Morale is clearly high in both camps, with the French looking to their impressive attack of Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

Griezmann has adapted to a deeper role behind the front three, taking part at the start of moves and also tracking back in defense.

England full back Kyle Walker said earlier in the week that the English defense would “not roll out the red carpet” for Mbappe, but his team-mates, and also French players such as Adrien Rabiot, have pointed out that France is much more than just Mbappe.

France coach Didier Deschamps isn’t expected to make any changes for the game and it is unlikely that Gareth Southgate will change the England team that cut Senegal apart last Sunday.

Phil Foden’s excellent display in that game means he will carry on alongside Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka, with Harry Kane leading the attack.

The only change England coach Southgate could consider is bringing in Kalvin Phillips for Jordan Henderson. Henderson was excellent in England’s last two games and opened the scoring against Senegal, but Phillips, who has had minutes as a substitute in those games, is now fully fit after a long-term shoulder issue, and could offer a bit more creativity alongside Declan Rice in central midfield.

It would be a brave move from Southgate, but you don’t progress in a World Cup without being brave, and the England coach is almost certainly working on a way to get England beyond the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time outside of Europe. ■

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