Kylian Mbappe is the most destructive force in world football, a young man on an unstoppable course to rewrite the record books, according to his French captain Hugo Lloris.
However, England must stop him in Al Khor on Saturday night. If they want to progress past the quarter-finals, Gareth Southgate must come up with a plan and handcuff Mbappé. And Poland’s Matty Cash says if anyone can do that, Kyle Walker is the man.
“Great, of course incredible, probably my strongest opponent,” said Poland’s right-back Cash after coming out of his duel with Mbappé at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.
Poland’s Matty Cash sent a warning to England after being attacked by Kylian Mbappé
The Aston Villa man admitted the Frenchman had ‘burned his legs’ in their last 16 loss to France
Mbappé scored twice for France against Poland on Sunday in a relentless attacking display
“I said earlier that Raheem Sterling was my strongest opponent. When we were against Manchester City he was brilliant. Sterling is fast, but I think Mbappé is electric. He’s the fastest.
“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 in the Premier League week in and week out 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.’
Mbappé scored twice in a 3-1 win against Poland and created the other for Olivier Giroud.
Cash said Mbappé was ‘the fastest player I’ve dealt with’ as he continued to scramble on the counter
“I didn’t know whether to drop out or go tight,” said the 25-year-old Aston Villa defender. “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.’
However, he believes England’s Kyle Walker has a good chance of stopping him in their quarter-final on Saturday night
Cash is in regular contact with Jack Grealish and Declan Rice, and they will have those conversations about France and Mbappé, and he believes Walker can keep him quiet.
“Kyle Walker is as fast as Mbappé,” he said. “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.’
Poland upset France when the tie was goalless, both with high balls to Lloris and breaking behind their full-backs. Again, cheers for England against the world champions.
“Two attempts were taken off the line,” Cash said. ‘Football is a strange old game, so if one of them enters it, everyone will say ‘oh Poland has one zero’. Fine margins.
“It wasn’t meant to be, every player gave everything and I thought we played really well, a lot better than against Argentina, so we can be proud of that. We go home with our heads held high and many of the young players go home with a lot more experience playing a big tournament.’
Walker faced Mbappé four times for Man City against PSG last year and did well
For Cash, the decision to choose Poland through his mother’s legacy has served him well, and he goes home with a Lionel Messi and Mbappé souvenir shirt to take home and frame after seeing them both in four days met time.
“It’s a childhood dream to play against these kinds of players in a big tournament,” said Cash. “That will help me a lot.”
Mbappé and France take on England, with boss Didier Deschamps convinced his Paris Saint-Germain star is more effective in this 4-3-3 form than in 2018.
He has a fantastic rapport with Giroud, whose goal against Poland made him France’s record goalscorer, but if he stays injury-free it’s only a matter of time before 23-year-old Mbappé takes over.
“It’s hard to see the limit for Kylian,” Lloris said. He is capable of breaking all records. It’s great to have a teammate like him, because of his spirit but also because of his talent.
“There is a great bond between the team. We work together, but when you get close to titles you need your key players at their best.”