WHEN we held our solar panel night ahead of this World Cup, the verdict was clear.
Myself, Harry Redknapp, Jack Wilshere and Ledley King all agreed that if we made it to the quarter-finals against France it would be: ‘Thank you for having us, here we get off, it’s the end of the flagpole. ”
I don’t feel that way anymore There’s a ray of light and it’s not just my heart that’s being taken over by my head.
Because I see weaknesses in this French team.
While we all know their dangers going forward, we also have plenty of attacking threat with the lightning-fast Kylian Mbappe, the strength of Olivier Giroud and the cunning of Antoine Griezmann.
But defense will have the biggest impact on this game. Which foursome works best with the goalkeeper?
It will probably be even more nuanced. Because I see this game as a battle between full-backs and I’m convinced that our two are better than theirs.
France didn’t keep a clean sheet in the tournament and if I were France coach Didier Deschamps I would stress them to work defensively and get the first shutout as their priority.
They have inexperience as full-backs, where one of them, Theo Hernandez, has only played ten times and Jules Kounde has played 15 times.
Compare that to Luke Shaw at 27 caps and Kyle Walker at 72 and they should be worried about us exploiting their wide areas rather than us panicking about their attack.
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Understandably everyone is looking to Mbappe now but Griezmann is opening doors for fun.
He’s a bit like Lionel Messi, he’s scary. But we also have a few of them in Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish.
People say if Mbappe gets a run on Harry Maguire it’s all over, but if he gets one of them one on one it could be all over.
He will be on Walker’s side and might be quick enough to deal with Mbappe. John Stones is also on this page which helps.
If he goes to Maguire’s side, we’re in trouble.
England need to double for Mbappe, which will put pressure on Jordan Henderson, whose job will be to help Walker.
Mbappe is good but I’m not sure yet if he’s a Maradona or a Pele, although he’s definitely working towards that and at 23 what kind of player he is. But all we have to do is double it.
I doubt England will move against him man for man. Gareth Southgate will only tell Jordan that there will be no goal going forward in this game like there was against Senegal.
His job will be to stop the ball from getting to Mbappe or give him space and not let the ball into the box so Giroud can attack.
Stay as a unit, stay together and don’t allow one-on-one situations. But the French will tell their team not to let the ball get into Harry Kane.
We would have additional insurance if Gareth switched to three, but I doubt he will.
He will trust those who have gotten him there so far, bring them together and play 4-3-3.
If we need an example, the team I’ve seen work best defensively is Holland. They’re the boring, boring arsenal of this World Cup.
They are coached so well by Louis van Gaal and I can see them beating Argentina in the quarters.
Holland put in a three and got really defensive, but I think they’ll do it with Messi.
If they do, would Gareth change tactics and think, “We should do it this way” and play with a back five to plug holes? Probably not, but it’s worth considering.
I want us to avoid going through them, there’s no joy there, it’s too easy to get blocked.
Against Senegal we just stretched the game and turned the game around when we started playing longer and kicking balls wide. We need Maguire to hit those diagonals without slipping short balls into central midfield where we can counterattack.
It’s going to be a great game and I can’t wait. I’m very excited about this.
We all know it’s going to be very close – a goal either way and it could even go to penalties.
I still wonder if we’re missing that special ingredient that makes you world champions.
France won it with that extra magic in Zinedine Zidane in 1998. When Italy wins, they say, “Wow, best defense in the world”. I don’t see that in ours yet.
We have to be special in one area and I don’t know what it is yet. Is it the best at set pieces, defense or best penalty taker – or Bellingham scoring more goals to go from good player to great player?
We have to raise the bar because this French game will be on a different level. Nothing to complain about now, we’re with the big boys.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6866596/england-france-world-cup-mbappe/ The World Cup quarter-finals between England and France is a battle of the big men… and ours are better than theirs… even with Mbappe