A closer look at Kylian Mbappe: Can England stop the World Cup's form player

A closer look at Kylian Mbappe: Can England stop the World Cup's form player

England are set to face Kylian Mbappe, the man regarded by many as the best player on the planet, when they take on France in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final at Al Bayt Stadium.

The 23-year-old forward, who scored four times en route to Les Bleus winning the 2018 tournament in Russia, leads the race for the Golden Boot in Qatar with five goals after a brace in the 3-1 last-16 victory over Poland.

Here, the SABC Sport team takes a closer look at Mbappe and the task of trying to stop him.

Formidable form

Mbappe headed into the World Cup looking as lethal an attacking force as ever, having netted 19 times for Paris St Germain in 20 Ligue 1 and Champions League appearances this season to take his goal tally for the club since joining in 2017 close to 200.

He subsequently scored a header, and set one up for Olivier Giroud, as France opened their Qatar campaign with a 4-1 win over Australia, notched two more goals in the 2-1 defeat of Denmark that followed, and then struck twice again, as well as teeing up another Giroud effort, against Poland on Sunday.

With nine overall, Mbappe has the same number of World Cup goals as Lionel Messi, and one more than Cristiano Ronaldo.

Previous encounters

England’s last meeting with France was a 3-2 friendly loss for Gareth Southgate’s men in Paris in 2017 that saw an 18-year-old Mbappe give an eye-catching demonstration of his talent, which included hitting the bar and providing an assist.

John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Eric Dier, all defenders in Southgate’s current squad, were among those to feature that evening.

There have also been a number of encounters between members of the squad and Mbappe at club level over the last few years, and varying amounts of success in keeping him quiet.

Perhaps the most encouraging occasion from an England perspective was Manchester City’s 2-1 Champions League semi-final first-leg victory at PSG in April 2021 that saw Stones and Walker excel as Mbappe struggled to make an impact.

Walker match-up

It looks as if right-back Walker will be the player to go directly up against Mbappe, and some notable names have expressed their belief in the 32-year-old’s ability to do the containing job.

Poland defender Matty Cash, after facing the France forward on Sunday, was quoted by a number of newspapers as saying he thinks “if anyone’s going to stop Mbappe, Kyle is the man”.

Meanwhile, former England right-back Gary Neville, speaking on ITV, said of Walker that he “can’t actually think of another right-back in the world that I’d want to put up against” Mbappe.

He added: “This is a sensational player, the new best player in the world. (But) Kyle will get closer to him, he’s got more pace than the Polish players had.”

Neville’s former United team-mate Roy Keane emphasised it was not a one-man job, saying: “You double up, you get bodies around him. If you give him that much space, you are in trouble.”

Cutting off supply lines

Neville also said thwarting some of Mbappe’s fellow forwards would be crucial, saying: “I think one of the things that’s really important is stopping the service into Giroud and (Antoine) Griezmann because once they get the ball, Mbappe’s going to receive it in far more difficult areas.

“So the lads in the middle, (Jordan) Henderson, (Jude) Bellingham, (Declan) Rice, Stones and (Harry) Maguire, if they can stop that service into that central area it means Mbappe’s receiving far less dangerous passes.”