Kyle Walker has vowed to make life as difficult as possible for Kylian Mbappé when the two face each other in England’s quarter-final against France on Saturday.
The pair have had many exciting battles at club level in the Champions League and Walker’s press conference on Wednesday was dominated by questions about how he can overturn Qatar’s current top scorer.
“The match is not England against Mbappe, but England against France,” Walker said optimistically.
“We’ll show respect, but I’m not going to roll out a red carpet to score. It’s make or break, if we lose we go home.’
When he insisted on how someone as talented as Mbappé is stopped, he added: “I understand what I have to do and that is stop him. It’s probably easier said than done, but I don’t underestimate myself.
“I’ve come across great players before, so I just treat it like a different game.
“I will give him the respect he deserves, but not too much, because this is England. No player makes a team. This isn’t tennis, it’s not a solo sport.’
Kyle Walker has vowed not to ‘roll out the red carpet’ if he takes on Kylian Mbappé
Mbappé (left) will face Walker (right), but the England ace is unafraid
Ahead of the last 16 win over Senegal, BBC presenter Gary Lineker urged Gareth Southgate to rest Walker so he would be well equipped for the challenge of taking on Mbappé.
Speaking on the BBC, Lineker suggested that Walker is so crucial to facing Mbappé’s threat against France, and that he needed to be protected at all costs in a match England were expected to win comfortably – and they did with a 3-0 win.
“Why play Kyle Walker when he’s the only full-back in the world who can keep up with Kylian Mbappe?” Lineker asked.
‘No respect for Senegal, but you have to give him some rest. Especially in an area where we’re blessed and where we could play Kieran Trippier or Trent Alexander-Arnold.’
Walker played 90 minutes.
Kyle Walker is England’s fastest sprinter in Qatar, recording bursts of 21.3mph in last 16 competition
The match-up between Walker and Mbappé, the star man at the World Cup so far, feels like the key to Saturday’s showdown.
Sports mail columnist Danny Murphy is convinced England is the ‘best equipped’ country to nullify Mbappe, given Walker’s pace.
“He’s done it before in Champions League games and I remember a situation where Walker asked him forward because he slowed down his own pace. I think Mbappé turned down the chance to run to Manchester City’s right back!’ Murphy wrote in his last column.
“That’s not to say that Mbappé isn’t intelligent enough to counter by going in and bullying other defenders. England can beat France, even with Mbappé.
Matty Cash (right) did a good job taming Mbappé on Sunday, but Kyle Walker will still find it tough
Cash said Mbappé was ‘the fastest player I’ve dealt with’ as he continued to scramble on the counter
But while Murphy is confident Walker is ready to step into form with the Frenchman, his performance against Senegal raised concerns for another columnist.
Martin Keown pondered in World Cup Confidential – Sports mail and MailPlus’ daily videocast from Qatar – earlier this week if Walker was as fit as he needed to start such a big game.
“Is he really into it already?” Keown said, adding that the Man City defender “doesn’t look that quick” coming back from a groin problem he suffered before the tournament started.
The former Arsenal star added that he doesn’t believe Walker alone can lock the door to Mbappé.
Walker faced Mbappé four times for Manchester City against PSG last year and did well
Walker looked confident as he took on Mbappe in the UEFA Champions League, knowing that the Frenchman’s pace – which Polish right-back Matty Cash labeled ‘the fastest I’ve ever seen’ – isn’t an overwhelming advantage given his own whippet-like tendencies.
Both Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand agree on the claim that Walker is the “only defender in the world” who can stop Mbappe in a running race.
Speaking of his Youtube Channelsaid Ferdinand: “For me, Kyle Walker is the only defender in the world right now who will stand there and go to Mbappe, ‘Right, 1-v-1, let’s have a race'”.
“He will withdraw himself too. We saw it in the euro. He’s got the confidence to do that and I think he’s the only one capable of doing that.’
Speaking on Sky Sports, Neville added: “Looks like there’s a collision course waiting to happen, doesn’t it? Mbappé against Walker.
“We have the perfect right-back to deal with Mbappe, if anyone can – physical, pace, experience.”
Gary Neville (left) and Rio Ferdinand (right) believe that with his strength, pace and experience, Walker is one of the “only defenders on the planet” who can limit Mbappé’s threat
Walker would be wise to heed Cash’s verdict as it was he who was knocked down by Mbappé in France’s rampant 3-1 victory over Poland in the last 16.
“Great, of course incredible, probably my strongest opponent,” said Cash when asked what it was like to take on Mbappé, who would go on to score two of France’s three goals.
“I watched his clips all afternoon, but I watch the videos while I’m in bed. In real life he burns my legs, that’s the difference. It’s a huge difference.
“He’s on another level. I play week in and week out in the Premier League and I play against top class wingers but he easily becomes the best player in the world. Speed, movement, look at his finish.
‘He has everything. He put two in the top corner, one left and one right.’
The Villa defender added: “I didn’t know whether to drop out or go tight.
Mbappé is the top scorer in Qatar so far with five goals, having added two more in the last 16
“When I went tight, he just spun in from behind. When he gets the ball, stops and moves, he’s the fastest I’ve ever seen. If he gets you up and moves you, he does it very well. He drops the shoulder, goes short, then long.
“Their game plan is to get the ball to the wingers and when it’s one-on-one you have to try to stop it. I did everything I could, when it was one-on-one I thought I had done well against him. I did a few races with him and it went well. You look over your shoulder and he’s there.
“Not once did he really chase me away. There were times when he got space on the counter-attack where he scored the second goal and that was the game changer as they went 2-0 up.
That’s where he hurts teams. He’s probably one of the two or three best players in the world right now.’
Given his experience in the Premier League, Cash knows Walker’s game well and believes the English man has a better chance of containing Mbappe than he and Poland.
“Kyle Walker is as fast as Mbappé,” said Cash. “He’s the best right-back in England and he has a lot more experience than me.
‘I don’t have to tell him anything. So if anyone wants to stop Mbappe, Kyle Walker is the man. He’s fast too.’
Walker is struggling with a groin problem, but is fit again just in time for the World Cup