Kylian Mbappe, a Forward for France, Skips Open Workouts before Facing England in the World Cup Quarterfinals

Kylian Mbappe, a Forward for France, Skips Open Workouts before Facing England in the World Cup Quarterfinals

England take on reigning champions France in crunch World Cup quarter-final on Saturday; France forward Kylian Mbappe is tournament’s top scorer with five goals; England assistant manager Steve Holland says they must pay “special attention” to 23-year-old at the Al Bayt Stadium.

England assistant manager Steve Holland says France star Kylian Mbappe is among a handful of players on the planet who need “special attention”.

With only four days until Saturday’s World Cup quarterfinal against England, Mbappe chose to skip France’s open training session on Tuesday.

The PSG forward, who leads the competition in scoring with five goals, participated in a separate recovery session.

The 23-year-old, however, is a major headache for England, whose assistant helped create strategies to mute Lionel Messi as Chelsea shocked Barcelona in the 2012 Champions League semifinals.

“I think there are a handful of players on the planet that you need to consider special attention to,” Holland said. “Messi has been one and probably still is.

“You’d have to put Mbappe in that kind of category I would suggest.

“We do need to look at trying to avoid leaving ourselves in situations where he is as devastating as we’ve all seen. We have to try to find a way of avoiding that.

“I remember having a conversation with (Jose) Mourinho about it a long time ago when he was with Real Madrid, they were playing Barcelona and they had (Cristiano) Ronaldo.

“(Dani) Alves would be the right-back for Barcelona and flying forwards in attack, he would play a soldier against him to try to stop him.

“But then of course you don’t get any threat from your team from the soldier as you’re just stopping somebody, you’re not actually hurting them.

“Then he would try to play Ronaldo against him, directly, one against one because Alves was fantastic going forwards but maybe not quite as good defensively as a consequence.

“There is always a plus and a minus to everyone. It’s that cat and mouse of, yes, we have still got to try to deal with him but we also have to try to exploit the weakness that his super strength delivers, if I’m making sense.

“Trying to adapt your team to cover for that while still trying to create your own problems is I think the challenge.

“I would like to think we won’t just be looking to stop a player but we would be looking to try to do everything possible to limit his super strength whilst still trying to focus on our own strengths because we have good players.

“Players just as likely to cause France trouble as Mbappe would be to us. We have to find that balance.”

Although England’s players were off on Tuesday, the staff got right to work on preparations, listening to a detailed report on France at 9 a.m. on Monday after having just returned from the Senegal game six hours earlier.

The Football Association’s head of coaching, Tim Dittmer, gave a presentation on Saturday’s opponents after following the reigning champions for the past two years.

“It’s a 50-50 game in my eyes,” Holland said. “If you’re playing inferior opposition and you play well you get the result.

“That’s the challenge. We could play well and still not get the result. It’s 50-50 with special players who can suddenly produce something out of nothing.

“But I think the team are really well equipped for the journey this quarter-final could be. It could be a long night. I feel we’re as ready as we’ve ever been to navigate that.”

Holland believes England have the “perfect opportunity” to prepare the players tactically and physically given this week’s schedule, saying there is “no excuse” heading into the weekend.

As observers wonder if they will continue with a four-man backline or switch to a back five, he says that they should build on what they have accomplished rather than go back to the beginning.

Holland does not “completely agree with” the perception that the latter is a more negative approach, saying it is about how they can “utilise the attributes we have been given by the country”.

“I think the challenge with us before the tournament and before every game we play now is to look at what we have, the tools we have in the bag,” Holland said.

“Look at the problems the opponent is going to cause us, their weaknesses, and try to come up with something that gives us the best chance of winning the game.

“That sounds a bit obvious but really but to win tournaments you need to be the best team in Europe or the world in both penalty boxes.

“There will be lots of opinions about how you get from one penalty box to the other – different nations will do that in different ways and there is no right or wrong – but normally in the two penalty boxes it’s law.”


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