France are going to face arch-rivals England in a quarterfinal of the World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar on Saturday.
France, the defending champions, beat Poland convincingly in the Round of 16, while England thrashed Senegal.
It remains to be seen whether England can go one step closer to ending their trophy drought of 56 years or France prevail with their overall quality.
Here are two things that might determine the fate of the match:
England defenders vs France forwards Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud
Mbappe is in red-hot from for the French at the moment, having scored five goals in the tournament already. It is a bit mind-boggling to think that the Paris Saint-Germain forward already has nine goals in the World Cup at the age of 23.
England should be wary of Mbappe’s tendency to run through the inside-left channel and will not want to give him too much space inside their own half. As Kyle Walker is not likely to go into overlaps too often, England will effectively play with a 3-5-2 formation, with Walker becoming the third centre-back and Bukayo Saka playing as the right wing-back.
Mbappe is not the only player the English defense will have to contend with. Giroud, who recently became the all-time highest goal-scorer for France, will also look to score from crosses played into the box. Theo Hernandez’s overlaps will pile the pressure up on England through the left and he will also look to play crosses occasionally.
Ousmane Dembele is also quite adept at playing crosses from the right and hence, there should not be a shortage of balls played to the 36-year-old French striker. It remains to be seen whether he is able to make good use of them.
English midfielders trying to make a difference
Jude Bellingham has quite probably been the best player for the Three Lions in the tournament so far and his runs through the inside-left channel will keep the French defenders on their toes.
He has a tendency to combine with an overlapping Luke Shaw and Phil Foden, who was brilliant against Senegal.
Adrien Rabiot often makes up for the lack of defensive work on the part of Mbappe by dropping down to his left and giving cover to Theo Hernandez. However, that means that either of Antoine Griezmann and Aurelien Tchouameni will have to move towards their right to help Jules Kounde, France’s right-back.
With Tchouameni being the lone defensive midfielder in France’s starting XI and staying just in front of the centre-backs, it is Griezmann who is likely to be given the additional responsibility of helping France defend the inside-left channel. Tchouameni should be aware of the fact that Harry Kane likes to drop back frequently and hence, should have an eye on him.
Still, that does not mean Griezmann will not be able to play the occasional long forward passes to feed the French forwards. Jordan Henderson’s role becomes crucial in this regard, as he will be playing in an advanced role and hence, might try to block the passes played by Griezmann.