Famed French newspaper L’Equipe has identified the player France must target if they are to advance past England and reach the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
The two rivals have looked imperious in their World Cup outings so far, with the pair almost effortlessly clinching places in the last eight. Gareth Southgate’s side are the tournament’s joint-top scorers with 12 goals in their four games played so far.
France, meanwhile, are the reigning champions and have Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud hitting top form at just the right time. However, with the pair due to meet in a heavyweight showdown, the World Cup adventure will end for one of them at the quarter-final stage on Saturday evening.
Looking ahead to the clash, L’Equipe admits Southgate’s side pose Didier Deschamps and Co a formidable test. However, they insist England are not unbeatable and believe in they have one obvious area of weakness.
And they believe that Manchester United defender Harry Maguire is the man their side need to target.
“The winner will not be the team that has the most possession, but the one that uses it with the most suddenness,” L’Equipe wrote.
“Harry Maguire’s slowness could prove detrimental to the England rear guard, which Gareth Southgate could strengthen by abandoning his 4-3-3 for a 3-4-3, as he does every time he faces the best selections.”
However, L’Equipe‘s optimism may be slightly ill-placed. Maguire has featured in every one of England’s matches so far, with the Three Lions keeping three clean sheets so far.
Kylian Mbappe injury issues emerge
One man who England and Maguire will absolutely need to keep a lid on is Mbappe. Coming alive in the World Cup once again, the talismanic 23-year-old already has five goals to his name. That tally includes two deadly finishes that helped swat Poland aside in the last-16 on Sunday.
However, Les Bleus do have an injury concern over Mbappe in the build-up to Saturday’s game. Indeed, the PSG superstar – regularly linked with Liverpool – missed training on Tuesday after complaining of an ankle issue.
Their whole squad were given Monday off on the back of their win over the Poles. And the entire squad reported for duty on Tuesday, with Mbappe the only absentee.
France, though, are downplay claims he will miss the game. And reports coming out of their training base insist he was simply doing recovery work in the gym.
Furthermore, noises in and around Qatar insist Mbappe is not injured at all.
And trusted French journalist Julien Laurens has moved to ease fears of his potential absence.
“Kylian Mbappe is not training with the France squad. He is indoors for a recovery session which was always the plan. He is not injured or tired or struggling!”