World Cup: Walker will not ‘roll out red carpet’ for France’s Mbappe
Walker will line up on the right side of England's defence against the world champions (Getty)

Kyle Walker has warned that England will not “roll out the red carpet” for Kylian Mbappe and that Saturday’s quarter final against France will be “do or die” as Gareth Southgate’s team attempt to reach back-to-back World Cup semi finals.

Walker was upbeat as he previewed the match and, in particular, his duel with Mbappe. The battle down England’s right flank is expected to be one of the defining factors when England look to end France’s defence of the trophy, but Walker said there is more to this meeting of old rivals.

The game is not England v Mbappe — the game is England v France,” Walker said firmly. “We respect that he’s a good player and in good form 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 a quarter final of a World Cup. It’s do or die. He’s not going to stand in my way of hopefully winning a World Cup. I fell he is a top player. I’m not underestimating that one bit but we are not playing tennis, it’s not a solo sport. They have to worry about us. It’s not just worrying about them.”

Walker has faced Mbappe three times previously, losing once and winning twice when Manchester City met Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. Will those previous experiences help on Saturday?

Technically I didn’t play against Mbappe one-v-one, it was more Neymar,” Walker said. “When we played them in the Champions League for Manchester City you are not just thinking about Mbappe. It’s exactly the same on Saturday.

Mbappe and Walker have gone head-to-head in the Champions League (Getty)

I do understand what I need to do and that’s to stop him. It’s probably easier said than done but I don’t underestimate myself. I’ve played him before and I’ve come up against great players before playing with England, Man City and other clubs.”

Gareth Southgate has already stressed to his team that France possess other deadly players, with Olivier Giroud becoming their all-time leading goalscorer in Qatar, and Antoine Griezmann also having a good tournament as part of France’s midfield trio.

“[Mbappe is] a tool they have in their armoury that’s very good, but there are other very good players,” Walker continued. “So, OK, he’s a great player — that’s why all the questions are about him — but let’s not forget Giroud, who’s scored countless goals for France and in the Premier League. [Ousmane] Dembele, who, for me, is just as good on the other wing, is a very tricky player. Then you’ve got Griezmann.

'We've been playing good, attacking football'

France represent by far England’s toughest opponents yet at this World Cup and Southgate’s team will have to overcome periods of stress and strain if they are to reach a successive World Cup semi final. Ensuring they maintain control in key moments could be key to any success.

In Qatar, England’s possession (65.1 per cent) is vastly superior after four matches to the previous World Cup (54.5 per cent) and last summer’s European Championship (52.9 per cent). That increase is largely because they are winning the ball back early and have faced opponents who, by and large, have been more defensive.

However, England’s 4-3-3 shape has also helped as the introduction of Jordan Henderson has provided balance to Southgate’s midfield.

The England manager may ponder a reversion to a back three in order to get more defensive numbers around the French attack. However, England’s front-footedness and the ability to get more of their influential forwards on the pitch has been a cornerstone of their promising start to this campaign.

Walker believes England's style of approach has benefited from playing a back four (Getty)

Walker played on the right side of a back three during the run to the 2018 semi final and Euro 2020 final, but has been right back in a four since returning from groin surgery in the third game of the groupstage.

The reason we’ve got more [possession] is maybe down to the tactics,” Walker added. “We played a back five in the Euros and in the last World Cup. So maybe we can control the ball a little bit better when we’ve got more men further up the field with attacking minds.”

Declan Rice missed training on Wednesday due to illness and should his condition not improve and he becomes a doubt for the game, then the midfielder’s absence will be keenly felt. Nevertheless, Walker believes that England can demonstrate their credentials by defeating the current world champions.

It’s a great opportunity to put a stamp down and to say that we are a good team and we can achieve great things” he said. “And to give us the belief that we can win this [World Cup]. I’m not saying we don’t believe, but to beat a big team in a quarter final, they’re the reigning world champions, that will give us great confidence — not arrogance, but confidence.

“I feel that the manager makes the right calls on whether to play a four or a five. Nobody was complaining about us playing a five before we reached the Euros final. We go to the final and it was maybe not as attacking as people would like to see.

“I think at this tournament we have been playing good attacking football and scoring a lot of goals — the last game was a comfortable win [3-0 against Senegal] I feel, so let’s just move on from there.”

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