France beat the World Cup champions’ curse on Sunday afternoon as they strolled past Poland and England pulled apart Senegal later that evening. Saturday’s matchup asks the question: is the individual brilliance on France’s squad too much for England?
Star players are already making headlines this World Cup.
Kylian Mbappé leads the tournament in goals having scored five already with two coming in France’s last match against Poland.
Phil Foden is in fine form as well for England having recorded two assists in the game against Senegal, the first player to do so for England in a World Cup knockout match since David Beckham in 2002.
This will be the first time ever that England and France will face each other in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, so this is a game that no one will want to miss. Some are even saying the winner of this match will go on to win the tournament.
Who are the players to watch out for in this matchup? Undoubtedly Mbappé, Harry Kane, Olivier Giroud, and Phil Foden are the most likely to score or assist based on their form. The unsung heroes lie in midfield.
Jude Bellingham is starting to make a name for himself, starting for England as a 19-year old despite playing his club football in a foreign country is not a small feat. He’s already grabbed the attention of many major clubs, with Liverpool and Manchester city circling. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder will look to add to his goal tally this tournament, having scored and assisted once already.
For the French team, Tchouaméni could play a big role, states avid French national team supporter Robin Henry: “He is playing for Real Madrid, he knows how to perform in big matches.” With Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kanté injured for the tournament, he has stepped up to fill that gap in midfield and played a massive role in France’s success.
The key battle on Saturday will be in the midfield. Robin adds: “With a guy like him, it’s easy [to control the midfield].” Tchouaméni has not scored or assisted this tournament but has played a vital role in France’s victories.
Repeating as World Cup champions is very rare and has only happened twice before, with Italy doing so in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil following up in 1958 and 1962. In six World Cups, the previous winner has gone out at the group stages. This ‘champions curse’ is a notable event that has happened four times since the turn of the century.
This France team is different from the 2018 winning team. Robin explains: “The 2018 French team was better…They knew how to play with each other.” The injuries to Pogba, Kanté, and Karim Benzema are huge blows to the experience this French side could have had, and now they have to rely on a young team who has not played together much.
Individually, however, this team is better. Robin remarks: “Mbappé is two times better than in 2018. Dembélé is top notch. And Giroud is great at scoring goals.” With these players being in form, it’s hard to see the France team not putting on a show this World Cup and being the first repeat winners since Brazil in 1962.
What do English supporters reckon? On Twitter a mix of emotions can be felt, with the loud and proud “It’s coming home!” seen just about everywhere you scroll. Some fans are being a little more realistic, seeing the game as quite a challenge against this France side with Kylian Mbappé hitting his stride at just the wrong time for them, at least.