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Can the Three Lions outsmart France’s unstoppable star player?

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Matthew Nash ponders how the three lions go about shackling a generational talent.

How do you stop the unstoppable?

With five goals and two assists Kylian Mbappe is showing no sign of letting up as he prepares to face England. Just how good is the France superstar, who bypassed Pele to become the player with the most World Cup goals by the age of 23 with nine following his brace against Poland? And can he be stopped?

Do you make the fifth amendment?

Gareth Southgate and his squad have been at pains to point out France are not all about Mbappe. Stop him and there’s Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud. But overthink it and England could end up in a complicated mess. So, Southgate could switch to a back five, with Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw offering a threat going forward and Kyle Walker tucking in alongside Harry Maguire and John Stones. That would give them Walker’s covering pace in behind Trippier. Or does he stick with the four he’s played so far?

Hit the Kyl switch

If Mbappe has a weakness, then European football expert Guillem Balague believes it is his over-reliance on one approach. ‘He is doing the same thing all the time. He wants the ball in space, one v one on the left-hand side, he wants to beat the defender running and he can be so much more.’ So simplify their planning and England could be in business. Balague agrees the pace of Walker could be key. ‘Just make sure he is covered by someone who can run very fast like Walker. He will try his move and forget there is a team there because he is after glory. He limits his talent so we don’t see the best Mbappe. Right now, it’s a good chance to get this raw Mbappe and the France who lost to Tunisia and are a bit suspect.’


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