‘England won’t fear France in World Cup showdown’

Arabnews24.ca:Tuesday 6 December 2022 06:10 AM: DOHA – Winger Bukayo Saka said that England has no reason to feel inferior to France as they prepare to face the World Cup holders in a blockbuster quarter-final on Saturday.

Fuelled by the brilliance of Kylian Mbappe, France has powered through to the last eight in formidable fashion as they look to retain the trophy.

England’s players celebrate after scoring during the round of 16 match against Senegal on Dec. 4, 2022.

Mbappe is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals and his lethal form has convinced many pundits to make France the favourites in the last-eight showdown at the Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday.

Even England boss Gareth Southgate conceded after his team’s 3-0 win against Senegal in the last 16 that France will pose the “acid test” of the Three Lions’ title bid.

But England forward Saka, who scored against Senegal after being selected instead of Marcus Rashford, is adamant his side deserve as much respect as Les Bleus.

“We know the qualities they have but we also know our own qualities. We’ve had three clean sheets and at the same time we’ve scored the most goals (in the tournament),” Saka said according to AFP.

French supporters cheer before the round of 16 match against Poland on Dec. 4, 2022

“There’s a lot of tournament experience now. If you look at the results from the last few tournaments we’ve been in, we’ve got to a semi-final and a final. So when the big games come, we have a lot of players who know what they need to do.

“We are feeling good right now. Of course, we have to believe we can win the tournament.”

With the red-hot Mbappe providing the cutting edge to a formidable France attack, there have been suggestions Southgate should use a three-man central defence in a bid to tame the holders.

Saka acknowledged France’s threat, saying: “There’s only one Kylian Mbappe. He’s up there with the best players in the world.

A young supporter wears the English flag as a face painting before the round of 16 match against Senegal on Dec. 4, 2022.

“We know the quality he has and we have to be prepared to stop him. But not just him, France have lots of other quality players.

“It will be a really difficult game. We have performed quite well in our first four games. We just have to stay hungry.”

However, Saka suggested England, scorers of 12 goals in four games, have done enough at this World Cup to show they can take the game to France rather than focus on containing them.

“That’s no doubt the quality we have in our team. We are blessed with an amazing frontline with so much quality,” Saka said.

“I’m not a manager, I’m a player. I have to trust Gareth and his staff to prepare the best game-plan. I don’t see us needing to change too much.

“We all back the manager. He has an unbelievable record in these big tournaments. We need to believe in him and stop doubting him.”

England’s first World Cup meeting with France since 1982 is expected to be a tight affair and if penalties are required to settle the tie, Saka is ready to take one despite his Euro 2020 heartache.

England fans cheer at the stand prior group B match between England and Wales on Nov. 29, 2022.

The Arsenal forward was one of three England players to miss during their shoot-out defeat against Italy in the Euro final.

“Obviously I’ve matured and progressed a lot as a player and a person since that moment,” he said.

“I can never forget it. But coming out here and scoring three goals has lifted me a lot. The love I’ve received from the fans lifts me as well.

“I wouldn’t have taken penalties for Arsenal if I wasn’t confident. If the moment comes and I’m selected to take it, I will be more than happy.”

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