How do England stop Kylian Mbappe? Gareth Southgate says Kyle Walker is “ready”

Nike signature Kylian Mbappe boots
(Image credit: Getty)

Kyle Walker is ready to face France star Kylian Mbappe when England take on the defending champions in Saturday's World Cup 2022 (opens in new tab) quarter-final, says Gareth Southgate.

Mbappe has been in flying form in Qatar and leads the tournament scoring charts with five goals in four games, two of which came in a 3-1 win over Poland in the last round.

Manchester City right-back Walker is likely to be tasked with defending one-on-one against the PSG star, and England boss Southgate backed his man to stand up to the challenge.

"I think the same as every position on the field, everyone on the pitch has 10 individual battles and has to support their team-mates,” Southgate said when asked about Mbappe.

“Obviously there is a direct responsibility on his opponent. You have to expect the same with our forwards. You've got to work the area of the pitch zones to make sure there is good coverage."

Southgate added: "We always wanted to give Kyle the opportunity to be fit as he has been a very important player for us over the last six years.

"We have managed that process well with his reintroduction to the team. Kyle is ready.

"We are talking about one of the opposition but we play France who are a fantastic team and we are aware of all of their players and the quality of their whole squad.

"Didier [Deschamps] has created a team that is stronger than the individuals, which maybe wasn't always the case, and we have to be at our very best to win the game."

England made it to the semi-finals four years ago in Russia before losing in extra-time to Croatia, while they were beaten by Italy in the final of Euro 2020 last summer on penalties.

As painful as those experiences were, Southgate believes they will help his team go further this time around.

“In terms of our experiences those big matches are important reference points for the team,” he said.

"There have been some defeats that hurt that prepare you for nights like tomorrow where you have to be the very best version of yourself. We are ready to fight France for that place in the semi-finals."

Raheem Sterling England training

(Image credit: Getty)

Southgate received a boost on the eve of the game when Raheem Sterling returned to camp.

The Chelsea forward’s involvement was in doubt after he flew back to the UK to be with his family following a break-in at his home, but Southgate says he will feature on Saturday.

"I've spoken briefly with Raheem at training. I need to pick up with him later,” Southgate said.

"It's great that he's back with us. He wanted to train today, normally we wouldn't do that having been on a longer flight. It was a lighter session so there was no risk in doing that.

"He will be involved tomorrow. What that looks like we'll have to decide because I haven't seen him on the training pitch. He's an important player for us."

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.