France to roar back to tame the Three Lions
The huge 2022 World Cup quarter final game between England and France on Saturday night at the Al-Bayt Stadium will go a long way to gauging just where the two nations are currently. Some observers believe the Three Lions haven't had a particularly stiff test yet at the tournament, an 'accusation' also levelled with less evidence at Les Bleus. Either way, the game is bound to be a fascinating watch, with a semi-final against either surprise package Morocco or a rejuvenated Portugal awaiting the victors. Read our preview here:
With John Stones a doubt and Ben White leaving the camp recently, Gareth Southgate could be forced into rejigging his backline completely, opting for two centre-backs in a four instead of the 3-4-3 typically seen against sides where his charges are favoured to beat. Depending on whether Stones passes a fitness test, that could mean Kyle Walker or Conor Coady partnering Harry Maguire; either would be a huge call, with the former more suited to being on the right of a three-man central defence than as a two. Trent Alexander-Arnold is also not the sharpest when running back towards his own goal, which will surely be a lot given that Kylian Mbappé operates in that channel. Much more certainty lies in the midfield and forward areas, however, especially due to how they controlled the game against Senegal. Jude Bellingham continues to grow in stature and the blend alongside the roaming Declan Rice and hugely experienced Jordan Henderson appears to be a winning one.
Rabiot in the headlights
Olivier Giroud continues to be the perfect foil for Mbappé, Ousmane Dembélé, and the approach Didier Deschamps has adopted as he looks to move one giant step closer to retaining the trophy. Theo Hernández is bound to give Mbappé an outlet or false runner on the overlap down the left, whilst the role the double pivots perform against the triumvirate in white will likely decide the outcome. Aurélien Tchouaméni has kept things ticking over nicely if not spectacularly next to Adrien Rabiot who, like Henderson, is adept at making unnoticed darts into the opposition penalty area, but unlike the Liverpool stalwart, does have a streak of ill discipline if he feels things are not going his way. He needs to demonstrate he has overcome that weakness in what is bound to be a pulsating, high pressured atmosphere.
England often start a match against a similarly talented nation quite well under Southgate, though there has been a historic tendency to then sit on a lead, as was evidenced in the Euro 2020 final with Italy when they failed to register another shot on target after going a goal up, eventually losing via the lottery of a penalty shoot-out. A (near) full-strength France are rarely in the position where they have to chase a game at major tournaments, but they in Mbappé, they have the brightest attacking talent in the men's game to help inspire them to victory. Parimatch have odds of 26.00 for an England half-time lead and a France full-time one.