The French media have slammed Harry Maguire as being “slow” and called Gareth Southgate “negative” in the run up to the World Cup quarter-final this weekend.
Gareth Southgate said he is relishing England’s “acid test” against reigning champions France as his side look to create more history in Saturday’s blockbuster World Cup quarter-final.
England have reached the quarter-final stage in three successive tournaments Mike Egerton
Having topped Group B without fuss, the 2018 semi-finalists opened the knockout phase with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Senegal in Sunday’s last-16 encounter.
England overcame heightened expectations and a bright start by the African champions at Al Bayt Stadium, where they will return this weekend to take on what Southgate called “the very best” in Qatar.
“You know, this is the acid test for us,” Southgate said. “We know it’s a step up from everything we’ve had so far.
“But the team have garnered so much experience in the last few years. They’re playing with confidence.
“We look threatening, we’re scoring goals, another clean sheet, which was really pleasing to see.
“So, we’re in a good place, but we know the level of the opposition as well.”
French paper L'Equipe has shared its prediction for the match on Saturday, suggesting Harry Maguire’s pace could lead Southgate to change formation: “Harry Maguire's slowness could prove detrimental to the England rear guard, which Gareth Southgate could strengthen by abandoning his 4-3-3 for a 3-4-3, as he does every time he faces the best selections,”
Gareth Southgate said he is relishing England’s “acid test” Martin Rickett
It later continued: “The face-off between Mbappe and Kyle Walker, who has just returned from a long groin injury that kept him away from the field for almost two months, will be key to unlocking the match.
“The Three Lions have often struggled against midfielders as skilled with the ball as Adrien Rabiot or Antoine Griezmann, but this time they may have their say thanks to [Jude] Bellingham, who has been a dominant box-to-box player in the tournament."
England have reached the quarter-final stage in three successive tournaments and are now looking to beat an elite nation in a knockout match on foreign soil for the first time.
England’s World Cup dreams were extinguished at the semi-final stage in 2018 with an extra-time loss to Croatia, which they followed by reaching last year’s European Championship final against Italy.