Doha: France coach Didier Deschamps is confident Kylian Mbappe can still make the difference in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final showdown with England even if the opposition put their focus on stopping the superstar forward.
Mbappe is the top-scorer at the tournament with five goals in four games, including a brace in the 3-1 win over Poland in the last 16, and England will need to find a way of countering the Paris Saint-Germain striker.
But the holders have formidable quality around Mbappe, with Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann all impressing in Qatar too.
Kylian will always be Kylian
“I imagine England will take measures like our four previous opponents did but Kylian has the ability to make the difference,” Deschamps told reporters on Friday ahead of the clash at Al Bayt Stadium in the desert north of Doha.
“Even in the last game, when he wasn’t at his best like in the first two, he was still decisive, but if we can share around the danger that stops too many precautions being taken against Kylian.
“But Kylian will always be Kylian, with the ability to be decisive at any moment.”
No second chance
The pressure is intensifying for both sides, but Deschamps has won the World Cup as a player and a coach and the 54-year-old encouraged France not to let the occasion get the better of them.
“As is the case for us and all teams who reach the knockouts, you don’t have a second chance,” he admitted.
“The further on you go the greater the quality, but the demands are higher too and so is the excitement.
“This is the next stage but there is no stress, no need to hold back. It is magnificent to play a World Cup quarter-final.”
While France are the defending champions, England appear to be growing as a team on the back of their run to the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and the final of Euro 2020.
France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris — who has spent nearly a decade in the Premier League with Tottenham — was full of praise for Gareth Southgate’s England.
“If you look at the English squad they have more players here who were in Russia than France do,” said the 35-year-old, who is set to win his 143rd cap and overtake Lilian Thuram as his country’s all-time record appearance maker.
“They were semi-finalists at the World Cup, runners-up at the Euro. There is a real progression and I believe this team is getting more mature. They are here to win.”
Lloris will come up against an England side captained by his Tottenham teammate Harry Kane, and there is the possibility the two could end up pitting their wits against each other in a penalty shoot-out.
“Harry has the ability to shoot anywhere. He is one of the best at this aspect of the game,” Lloris said.
“Harry and the England players will analyse penalties but then it is all about instinct, and before you get to the penalty shoot-out there is the time to make the difference on the pitch.”
Kane ‘a real leader’
Lloris and Kane have played together at Spurs for nine years and so know each other inside out.
The France skipper added: “I think I only have positive things to say about Harry.
“For England he is a real leader, a role model for his teammates and above all a top player.”