London: England manager Gareth Southgate has urged the Three Lions to take the game to defending champions France in a blockbuster World Cup quarter-final clash on Saturday.
Southgate’s men are the joint top-scorers in the tournament with 12 goals in their four games in Qatar so far but will come up against the firepower of the tournament’s top-scorer in Kylian Mbappe.
The threat of the Paris Saint-Germain forward has led to suggestions Southgate could change his formation with an extra defender added to deal with France’s front four of Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele.
Array of attacking talent
But Southgate has hinted he intends to force France into worrying more about how to stop England’s array of attacking talent.
“There is no point going into a game like this and just covering up and sitting on the ropes. We believe we can cause problems with the ball and we intend to do that,” Southgate told ITV.
England reached the semi-finals four years ago as France went onto claim their second World Cup in Russia.
The Three Lions then got to a first major tournament final in 55 years at Euro 2020 before losing on penalties to Italy on home soil at Wembley.
But Southgate is hopeful that those experiences will help his side end the wait for a major trophy that stretches back to the 1966 World Cup.
“We’ve beaten some big teams. We know we have the experience of high pressure nights behind us and as a team we’ve been resilient through a lot of situations, but they all prepare you for nights like this,” added Southgate.
First final in 55 years
“We got to the first final for 55 years. We’ve won a semi-final and been to a semi-final of the World Cup before.
“But, of course, it is a big game against a high-quality opponent. Everything that has happened in the past is history, it all comes down to Saturday night.”
A much-changed France lost their final group game 1-0 to Tunisia, but when Didier Deschamps has named his strongest side, the world champions have also been in fine form.
Golden Boot race
Mbappe is out in front in the race for the Golden Boot with five goals, while Giroud has become his country’s all-time leading scorer in Qatar.
“We’ve got to recognise that four years ago if we had played France we could have talked a good game but we genuinely didn’t have the evidence of big performances, experiences of big nights that could really give us the faith that we could win,” said Southgate.
“Now we’ve had a lot of those nights and we’ve a lot of those attributes. We know, of course at this stage they will be very evenly matched games, but we know we have the quality to win the game.”