Men's Team

Walker: It's England v France, not England v Mbappe!

City defender Kyle Walker says he is relishing the prospect of potentially locking horns with French superstar Kylian Mbappe once again in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final between England and France.

However, the City right back stressed that to focus solely on the threat of the Paris Saint-Germain superstar alone would be a big mistake given the array of world class quality on display and that it will be England v France in Doha - not England v Mbappe.

Walker knows all about the 23-year-old having come up against him four times for City in the Champions League over the past few seasons and having impressed in those meetings – earning praise from Mbappe himself.

The France striker has so far been in superb form so far at the Qatar showpiece and is the tournament's top scorer with five goals.

But addressing the media at a press conference in Qatar on Wednesday afternoon, Walker was at pains to point out that Saturday’s game was all about the collective rather than the individual.

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“The game is not England v Mbappe, it's England v France,” Walker stressed.

“We have respect that he's a good player and in good form at the minute but I'm not going to roll out the red carpet for him and tell him to go and score.

“I’m representing my country at the quarter final of the World Cup so and you know it’s do or die.

"If we lose we go home and he's not going to stand in my way of hopefully winning a World Cup for my country.

“I think when we played against him in the four times in the Champions League for Manchester City, you were not just thinking about Mbappe and it's exactly the same on Saturday.

“OK, he is a tool that they've got in their armoury that's very good but there are other good players which we can’t underestimate.

“Players that have won big titles, won World Cups. He's a great player - we all know that - but let's not forget Olivier Giroud who has scored countless goals for France and in the Premier League, Ousmane Dembele who is, for me, just as good on the other wing and a very tricky player and then you've got Antoine Griezmann.

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“These players can cause you problems so we take our hat off to Mbappe as he is a great player, but we should appreciate that there are other players as well.

“Mbappe is a fantastic player in great form so it’s not going to be an easy task.

"I'm not underestimating that one bit, but we're not playing tennis, it is not a solo sport. It's a team game and I'm sure you're aware that it takes a team you know to win a game of football.”

The clash with the reigning world champions is arguably the pick of the quarter-finals with England having reached the last four at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and being beaten finalists in last year’s EURO 2020 final.

And given the quality at Gareth Southgate’s disposal, Walker – a veteran of those two campaigns – said there was a quiet confidence in the Three Lions camp ahead of the meeting with Didier Deschamps’ men.

“We have to back ourselves and we have to be confident in the players that we've got,” Walker added.

“The players have been nurtured over the last four years reaching the semi-final in the World Cup, reaching the final of the EUROS and then obviously we've got to a quarter-final here.

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“OK, we’ve not yet gone past what we achieved in the last World Cup or Euros but we are on the right path and in the right direction.

“I think with the group and squad that we've got the confidence is high. We are scoring goals we’re not conceding too many and so we have to be confident.

“But Saturday's going to be a very tough game against a very good team.

“It’s the reigning world champions and you know we need to be right up to speed up to the mark and make sure that you know we are all singing all from the same hymn sheet to collectively win this game.”

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