England will not roll out the red carpet for Kylian Mbappe and France

Kyle Walker insists England won’t roll out the red carpet for France’s big showmen in Saturday’s World Cup quarterfinals.

Much of the talk since the draw was confirmed has been about Kylian Mbappe and how England could stop a man who led the golden shoe race with five goals in Qatar.

World Cup holders are also bragging about the likes of Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, who surpassed Thierry Henry as Les Bleus’ all-time top scorer.

But Walker isn’t ready for a British theater audience as he backs Gareth Southgate’s men to show what they can do.

“Hats off to them, they are world champions, they get the respect they deserve,” Walker said of France.

“They won the last World Cup. But I can assure you that each of us will not roll out the red carpet for them to go and perform, thinking it’s a theater for them to showcase their great talent.

“We also have great talents to talk about. Goals we scored, goals we conceded. We’re just going with it.

“Playing the quarterfinals in a World Cup will always be special. It will always be a little bit more special against the reigning world champions France. It will be a very difficult match that we know and look forward to.”

Walker will be the man tasked with silencing Mbappe at Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday night and having faced the Paris St Germain forward four times in the Champions League before.

“Obviously it will help because I’ve played against him a few times now with Manchester City against PSG,” Walker said of his battle with Mbappe.

“He’s a great player in great form. It won’t be an easy task. As a professional football player you want to play against the best and he is currently one of the best, if not the best, in the world.

“Do I understand the focus? Of course I want. I understand what I have to do and this is clearly to stop it.

“It’s probably easier said than done, but I don’t take myself lightly. I’ve played with him before and encountered great players during my previous time playing in England, Man City and other clubs I’ve played for.

Walker takes on Mbappe at club level

Walker captures Mbappe at club level (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I have to treat it like it’s just another game. I have to take extra care and give him the respect he deserves but not too much respect because he also plays in England and we can cause trouble for them. It will be a tough match, but one player does not form a team.

The match is not England vs Mbappe. Match England v France. He’s a good player and we respect that he’s in good shape right now, but I’m not going to tell him to roll the red carpet and score a goal for him.

“I’m representing my country in the quarter-finals of a World Cup. Do or die really. If we lose, we go home. He won’t get in my way and I hope he wins a World Cup for my country.”

There are suggestions that Southgate could opt for the back trio for the quarterfinals after being stuck with a central defensive duo in the first four games.

When asked about his changing role in the different system, Walker replied: “I don’t really think much has changed.

“I feel like I haven’t bombarded the system we play for Manchester City or England as far forward as when I played as a wingback for example at Tottenham.

“It’s about reading the game, reading the opponent, reading the formation the manager wants you to play in, and really adapting to it.

“It’s a team game, not a one player game. I’ll do whatever the manager wants and whatever benefits the team.”

Walker, 32, may be the oldest member of Southgate’s World Cup squad, but remains – according to FIFA statistics – the fastest.

Kyle Walker believes he is the fastest player on England's squad, right?

Kyle Walker believes England team is fastest player (Peter Byrne/PA)

When asked what his message would be to his teammates, he replied, “Just listen to FIFA”.

While still a pacesetter, Walker insists experience may be the key to keeping things tight, rather than relying solely on speed.

“You have to use your mind a little,” he added.

“You can’t be a speedboat without a driver. You have to use your brain when necessary and I can’t be as strict with it as other players, that’s the nature of the game.

“I remember playing against Theo Walcott once and I was getting really close to him and then he suddenly got behind you and that’s your lesson.

“You have to make sure that the mistakes you make are not costly mistakes. No matter who plays right-back, he beats you once, twice, three times in a game, he’s a great player. You should do these activities as little as possible and not be costly.”

Leave a Comment