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England vs. France: 5 matchups that may resolve quarterfinal

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AL RAYYAN, Qatar — England and defending champion France face off on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, Fox and the FOX Sports activities app) at Al Bayt Stadium in maybe the marquee recreation of quarterfinal spherical on the 2022 World Cup.  

Listed below are 5 particular person matchups that would resolve the result.  

Kylian Mbappé vs. Kyle Walker  

You possibly can’t cease Les Bleus headliner Mbappé; you’ll be able to solely hope to include him. That is the unenviable activity dealing with Three Lions proper again Walker, who will go head-to-head with maybe the planet’s greatest participant, who has the license from French coach Didier Deschamps to roam the sphere however nonetheless operates totally on the left aspect — the place each of his all-world targets within the 3-1 spherical of 16 win over Poland had been scored.  

Mbappé, 23, is predicted to begin regardless of lacking coaching earlier within the week. “It was just a little restoration session,” teammate Ibrahima Konate mentioned Thursday. “There’s nothing to fret about.”  

Walker might be uniquely certified for the matchup. Kieran Trippier began England’s first two video games at proper again earlier than being changed by the sooner, extra bodily Manchester Metropolis fullback for the final two. He is one of many few defenders who can maintain tempo with Mbappé, who managed only one purpose in 4 video games in opposition to Walker whereas enjoying for Paris Saint-Germain in opposition to Metropolis within the Champions League during the last two seasons.  

“You need to give him respect however not an excessive amount of,” Walker mentioned Wednesday. “I am not going to roll out a crimson carpet for him and inform him to go and rating.” 

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Jude Bellingham vs. Aurélien Tchouaméni 

Simply 19, England midfielder Bellingham has been one of many breakout gamers in Qatar. However Tchouaméni himself isn’t any slouch, which is why Actual Madrid paid north of $100 million for the defensive midfielder’s companies over the summer season. 

Tchouaméni wasn’t supposed to begin at this World Cup. However with Les Bleus’ unsung 2018 hero N’Golo Kanté left off Deschamps’ roster due to harm, the 22-year-old has began all 4 video games for France.  

His means to cowl floor has been a revelation thus far, and Bellingham struggled mightily in opposition to one other uber-athletic foe, the United StatesYunus Musah, earlier within the match.   

Antoine Griezmann vs. Declan Rice  

Griezmann performed as a striker when France gained the World Cup in 2018, however he is been deployed in a central playmaking function in Qatar. “I should be the hyperlink between the protection and the forwards,” he mentioned final week. “I’ve three gamers in entrance of me, so extra choices. It is simpler for me.”  

Rice, who has emerged as one of many prime defensive midfielders within the sport during the last yr, will attempt to disrupt Griezmann’s rhythm by limiting his time and house. “After we lose the ball excessive up the pitch,” fellow England midfielder Jordan Henderson mentioned of Rice, “he is all the time there to guard and assist the defenders cowl the bottom.”

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Harry Kane vs. Raphael Varane  

Kane led the final World Cup with six targets however has only one in Qatar, which got here within the Three Lions’ 3-0 victory over Senegal of their first knockout stage take a look at. However he is a big-game participant who will in all probability have to seek out the web in opposition to Les Bleus if England is to tug off the upset.  

It will not be straightforward in opposition to the Actual Madrid middle again, one other starter for Deschamps on France’s title-winning squad 4 years in the past. Varane, 29, is a greater, extra skilled defender than he was then. Kane comes into the match with 52 worldwide targets, one shy of the England file held by Wayne Rooney. However he hasn’t confronted a stopper with wherever close to the standard of Varane by his first 4 matches.  

Olivier Giroud vs. Harry Maguire  

A lot was manufactured from the truth that goal man Giroud did not rating a single purpose throughout France’s run to glory on the final World Cup. The 36-year-old has three in three appearances this day out, the final of which made him the all-time prime scorer for his nation.  

Giroud’s hold-up recreation stays top-notch, and his understanding with Mbappe has solely gotten higher in recent times. But when there’s anybody who can cease the 6-foot-4 striker, it is fellow man-mountain Maguire, the much-maligned Manchester United central defender who has nonetheless shaped an virtually impenetrable partnership with John Stones for Gareth Southgate’s aspect.  

“They perceive one another so nicely and feed off one another, assist one another out,” England midfielder Kalvin Phillips mentioned. “It is in all probability the most effective middle half partnership within the World Cup.”  

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Doug McIntyre is a soccer author for FOX Sports activities. Earlier than becoming a member of FOX Sports activities in 2021, he was a workers author with ESPN and Yahoo Sports activities and he has lined United States males’s and girls’s nationwide groups at a number of FIFA World Cups. Observe him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre. 

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