HomeUKEngland’s Kyle Walker will not ‘roll out the red carpet’ for Kylian...

England’s Kyle Walker will not ‘roll out the red carpet’ for Kylian Mbappé

Kyle Walker has said he will not “roll out the red carpet” for Kylian Mbappé when England play their World Cup quarter-final against France on Saturday.

As England ramped up their preparations for their daunting clash with the world champions, there was concern for Gareth Southgate over Declan Rice missing training because of illness and Callum Wilson receiving treatment on a minor niggle.

There is also yet to be any clarity over whether Raheem Sterling plans to return to Qatar after flying back to the United Kingdom following the burglary at his Surrey home. But overall the vibes were good as the squad worked under cloudy skies at their Al Wakrah base.

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It is hoped that Rice will be ready to return to training on Thursday and there was plenty of optimism from Walker, whose duel with Mbappe is expected to be one of the defining factors when England look to end France’s defence of the trophy.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best, in the world,” England’s right-back said of France striker. “I understand what I need to do and that’s to stop him. It’s probably easier said than done but I don’t underestimate myself.

“I have to take extra care and give him the respect he deserves, but not too much respect because he’s playing England and we can cause them problems. The game is not England v Mbappe. The game is England v France.

Kyle Walker (left) has faced and fared well against Kylian Mbappé in the Champions League.
Kyle Walker (left) has faced and fared well against Kylian Mbappé in the Champions League. Photograph: John Berry/Getty Images

He’s a good player and in good form but I’m not going to roll out the red carpet for him and tell him to go and score. I’m representing my country at a quarter-final of a World Cup. It’s do or die. If we lose we go home. He’s not going to stand in my way and hopefully winning a World Cup for my country.”

Walker’s speed is a vital asset for England’s defence and he believes he is quick enough to keep up with Mbappé, who is leading the race to win the Golden Boot after scoring five goals in four games. Their battle will be fascinating.

Mbappe scored two exceptional goals when France beat Poland in the last 16 and he is expected to be fit despite sitting out training on Tuesday. “He had a different kind of training session to do,” the France defender Ibrahima Konate saidon Wednesday. “There was nothing worrying about that.”

The worry for Walker will be how to play Mbappé. The Manchester City defender can draw on facing the Paris Saint-Germain striker in the Champions League. Mbappé, who has scored once in three appearances for PSG against City, once described Walker as one of the few defenders capable of making him suffer.

“It’s nice to hear from a good player that he’s had a tough game against me,” Walker said, though he was keen to stress that France’s threats are not limited to one individual. He offered a timely reminder that England also have to keep a close eye on Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé.

“We are not playing tennis,” Walker said. “It’s not a solo sport. It takes a team to win a game of football. They have to worry about us. It’s not just us worrying about them. We have great players, and great players who can come off the bench and affect games.

“Full credit to the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish, who have come off the bench and scored a goal. Bukayo [Saka] has been on fire. Harry [Kane] has got his goal now. We have got goals from all ends of the field. I can tell you training is tough marking some of these guys. You want to play against the best guys in the world but we have some of them in that changing room.”

Walker argued that it does not matter if England, who have kept three consecutive clean sheets, are regarded as underdogs. “I don’t think it changes,” he said.

“Favourites, not favourites, it’s a game of football. We take our hats off to them. They are world champions. But I can assure you that each and every one of us will not be rolling out the red carpet for them to go and perform, thinking it’s a theatre for them to showcase their great talent. We have also got great talent.”

But as much as Walker tried to steer the subject away from Mbappé, the conversation kept coming back to him. If there is a concern for England it is that Walker has just returned from groin surgery. He lasted the entire game when England beat Senegal in the last 16, but he is 32. Walker knows he has to use his experience against Mbappé.

“You have to use a little bit of nous,” Walker said. “You can’t be a speedboat without a driver. You need to use your brain when needed and I can’t get as tight to him as I would with other players. I remember playing against Theo Walcott once and I was getting so close to him and then all of a sudden he gets behind you and that’s your lesson taught.

Declan Rice missed England’s training session through illness.
Declan Rice missed England’s training session through illness. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

“You need to make sure the mistakes you make are not costly mistakes.
Whoever plays at right back, he’s going to get the better of you one, two, three occasions a game. He’s a great player. You need to make those occasions as few as possible and not costly.”

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