England kept their third clean sheet of the tournament against Senegal to secure their place in the quarter-finals. The Three Lions will next battle defending world champions France on Saturday for a spot in the semi-finals.
The clash takes place at Al Bayt Stadium.
Manchester United defender Harry Maguire has been identified as the potential chink in England’s armour (via The Mirror).
After a nervous start to their Round-of-16 tie against the African side, Gareth Southgate’s men ending up winning 3-0.
Between England and the semi-finals stands one of Qatar 2022’s favourites and the tournament’s current top scorer. France and Kylian Mbappe will be looking to become the first side in six decades to retain the World Cup trophy.
The threat to Maguire’s World Cup campaign
While the Three Lions’ defence has been anything but porous, they will be up against one of the tournament’s most prolific attacks.
Mbappe, who helped his team dispatch Poland with a brace in the first knockout game in Qatar, will be keen to add to his tally against the English.
United captain Harry Maguire has had a forgettable season at club level. Despite lacklustre club performances, he has held his own in the Three Lions backline. His critics have had little to latch onto, with three clean sheets in four games.
However, the French press believes that Maguire’s luck will soon run out as his lack of pace will prove England’s Achilles’ heel.
“The winner will not be the team that has the most possession, but the one that uses it with the most suddenness,” L’Equipe suggested.
“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.”
The return of Kyle Walker
Maguire will not be facing France’s attacking force alone.
Kyle Walker will likely be tasked with keeping tabs on Mbappe. Keeping the PSG star at bay will be no mean feat but a crucial component of winning the clash.
L’Equipe predicts, “The face-off between Mbappe and Kyle Walker, who has just returned from a long groin injury that kept him away from the field for almost two months, will be key to unlocking the match.”
Now more than ever, fans will need to rally behind their team and Maguire if they are to stop the defending champions from progressing to the semi-finals.
The contest between England and France is, beyond doubt, a spectacle the world will watch with bated breath.