England defender Kyle Walker says French star Kylian Mbappe “won’t stop me winning a World Cup” as the pair prepare for their battle of pace in Saturday’s quarter-final clash.
Mbappe, who is on course to clinch the Golden Boot with five goals in four games, returned to full training with the France squad on Wednesday after undergoing a recovery session away from the team tuesday.
Walker has been branded as England’s antidote to Mbappe’s attacking threat and the 32-year-old has said he won’t be ‘rolling out the red carpet’ for the striker.
“I think the game is not England versus Mbappe, it’s England versus France,” Walker told a press conference on Wednesday.
“We respect that he’s a good player in good form, but I’m not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to go score.
“Representing my country in the quarter-finals of a World Cup, it’s really do or die. If we lose, we go home. He won’t stop me from winning a World Cup for my country. “
‘Don’t forget Giroud, Dembele and Griezmann’
Walker has faced Mbappe four times in his career, when his Manchester City side faced Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
City have won three of the four encounters with Mbappe scoring just once – an equalizer in their last encounter which the Premier League champions won 2-1.
“When we played all four times against PSG for Man City in the Champions League, you don’t just think of Mbappe,” added Walker. “I think it’s exactly the same on Saturday.
“It’s a tool in their arsenal which is very good, but there are other good players and we can’t underestimate them. [They have] players who have won big titles, won World Cups.
“So okay, he [Mbappe] is a great player, we know that – that’s why all the questions are about him.
“But let’s not forget Olivier Giroud, who has scored countless goals for France and in the Premier League. Ousmane Dembele, who for me is just as good on the other wing and a very tricky player. And then you have Antoine Griezmann – these players can cause you a problem.
“We take our hats off to him, he’s a great player. But for me all questions shouldn’t be about him. We should appreciate the fact that we see a great footballer, but there are other players as well. “
Asked if he understood why there was so much hype about this individual battle, Walker said: “Of course I know, I play football. I understand what I have to do and it’s obviously to stop him. That’s probably easier said than done.
“But I don’t underestimate myself. Like I said before, I’ve faced him before and met great players when I played for England, Man City and the clubs I’m for. played.
“I have to treat it like another game. I have to be very careful and give it the respect it deserves, but not too much respect because he is also playing against England and we can cause him problems. It will be a game difficult. , but not a player makes a team.”
Walker: Mane is probably my toughest opponent
Asked who he would rank as the toughest opponent he has faced, Walker cited former Liverpool striker Sadio Mane’s work rate both in possession and out of possession.
“Technically, I didn’t play against Mbappe. [for Manchester City[, one versus one it was more Neymar, who is a fantastic player,” the right-back added.
“I would probably say Sadio Mane just because he never gives you a moment’s rest on the ball. I’m not saying the other guys I mentioned don’t, but they probably don’t defend as much as Mane does and save their energy for when they are attacking.”
Experts on the Walker vs Mbappe battle:
Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:
“I’m sure Kyle will stay in at right-back. That seems like a collision course waiting to happen, doesn’t it?
“Mbappe vs Walker, it seems like we have the perfect defender to deal with Mbappe. If anyone can deal with him and his physicality, pace and experience.”
Sky Sports’ Alan Smith:
“We’ll all be looking at that Mbappe-Kyle Walker match up.
“It was fascinating listening to Matty Cash playing for Poland. He said he looked at the videos and everything, but when it came down to it, if he got tight, he’d spin it and if he stood off, he’d race past him. But then he gets the ball in the box. and he puts it top-right and top-left.
“He [Mbappe] is in such fantastic shape. I think he’s the best player in the world right now, so you need a bit of luck.”
Polish defender Matty Cash, who scored Mbappe in the World Cup Round of 16:
“He’s amazing, obviously amazing, probably my toughest opponent. I would have said before that Raheem Sterling was my toughest opponent. Sterling is fast but I think Mbappe is electric. He’s the fastest.
“He’s on a different level. I play in the Premier League week in and week out and play against top wingers, but he’s easily going to be the best player in the world. Speed, movement, look at his finishing He’s got it all, he put two in the upper corner, one on the left and one on the right.
“I didn’t know whether to drop or go tight. When I went tight, he just spun behind. When he gets the ball, stops and moves, that’s the fastest thing I’ve ever had. I’ve ever seen. When he picks you up and moves, he does it very well. Drops his shoulder, goes short and then long.
“Their game plan is to give the ball to the wingers and when it’s one-on-one you have to try and stop it. I did everything I could, when it was one-on-one I thought I did OK against him. I’ve been in a few races with him and I’ve done well. You look over your shoulder and there he is.
“He didn’t really run over me once. There were times when he had space on the counter-attack, that’s when he scored the second goal and that’s what That was the game changer, when they went 2-0. That’s where it hurts. He’s probably among the two or three best players in the world at the minute.
“Kyle Walker is as quick as Mbappe. He’s the best right-back in England and he’s got a lot more experience than me. I don’t need to tell him anything. So if anyone wants to stop Mbappe, Kyle Walker is the man. He’s quick too.”