Wright worried for England’s chances due to two unsung France heroes

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Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright suggests that, despite Kylian Mbappe’s scintillating form, England may find it hard to tame two unsung French heroes when the sides come face-to-face at the weekend. Both nations sealed their tickets to the World Cup quarter-finals thanks to convincing victories on Sunday. 

Many interpret France as the most impressive team of the tournament so far, having wiped the floor with Australia in the group stages and powered past Poland in the Round of 16. In Mbappe, they have perhaps the most feared player in Qatar and the Paris Saint-Germain ace scored twice more on Sunday. 

England have huge talent of their own, however, and many of them found their range in the 3-0 win over Senegal to advance to the quarters. Jordan Henderson, Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane were among the goals to set up a heavyweight European clash for a place in the semis. 

Despite Mbappe taking his 2022 World Cup tally to five goals against Poland, Wright has emphasised the roles played by Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, who have gone about their business more discreetly so far. 

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“I don’t think you can ignore [Griezmann],” Wright told ITV. “Obviously, you can’t ignore Mbappe [either] but Griezmann is the one who knits everything together. [Ousmane] Dembele as well.

“You’ve got to stop Griezmann, [get] on him, it’ll be tough to stop someone like Dembele but this is what it’s about. If you want to win this tournament, you’re going to have to come up against the world champions. We’re going into the Mbappe era but [France] haven’t kept a clean sheet yet in the competition.”

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Griezmann, who has 42 goals at international level, is yet to get on the scoresheet in Qatar but he has performed admirably in an attacking midfield role which has allowed others to thrive around him. Dembele is one of the beneficiaries and his searing pace is enough to strike fear into any opposition defender. 

The Barcelona ace set up Mbappe’s second and France’s third against Poland on Sunday, with England left-back Luke Shaw facing a potential pace mismatch next time out. Despite the dangers posed by several of Les Bleus’ key men, Wright is correct to point out that Didier Deschamps’ men are yet to keep a clean sheet so far in Qatar. 

Australia and Denmark both managed to land a blow on them in Group D, before Tunisia bested a much-changed side to notch a 1-0 win last week. Promisingly for England, France’s confidence may have taken a minor blow against Poland when their clean sheet was snatched away in the ninth minute of added time as Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty at the second time of asking. 

With just a few days to rest up, England manager Gareth Southgate was asked about the upcoming meeting with France after sealing victory over Senegal. “They’re an outstanding team with a phenomenal tournament record,” he told reporters. “They have some outstanding individuals and for sure it’s a game where we have to find our level.”

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