England-France, duels in spades

In front, in the middle and on the bench, there will be duels in spades during the quarter-final of the World Cup between Harry Kane’s England and Olivier Giroud’s France, Saturday (8:00 p.m.) in al-Khor.

. Tchouaméni-Bellingham, the next generation in the middle

After seducing Europe with Dortmund, Jude Bellingham confirmed, at 19, that he could already be the midfielder that England lacked with remarkable performances against Iran, Wales or Senegal.

As good at recovery as at pressing, or in forward projections, he also knows how to bring danger into the area and the transfer counter should panic again this summer when all the top English and European clubs will tear off his signature.

Real Madrid already pulled out the printing press last summer to snatch 22-year-old Aurélien Tchouaméni from Monaco for 80 to 100 million euros, depending on the various bonuses activated.

International since September 2021, the defensive midfielder takes over from the badly injured N’Golo Kanté with the Blues, without pressure and with the “sobriety” required, as he said. “He will improve further but he does what he has to do,” commented assistant coach Guy Stephan.

. Giroud-Kane, record hunters

“There are similarities but we still have a difference of seven years!” laughs Olivier Giroud.

The oldest French striker (36), silent in 2018, has already scored three times in Qatar and captured the national record with 52 goals scored, on the evening of his 117th selection in the eighth round against Poland.

Harry Kane has the same total, but the Tottenham striker is only 29 years old and 79 caps. In the event of a new pawn, “HurriKane” (nickname borrowed from “hurricane” which means “hurricane”) would share the English record that Wayne Rooney reached on his 115th selection.

Top scorer of the 2018 edition, Kane only opened his counter in the eighth against Senegal. But he nevertheless delivered three assists, in his particular style of centre-forward/playmaker where his resistance in duels and his passing quality work wonders.

“He’s a player who can have a profile comparable to mine: tall, powerful, good heading and very good at fixing points,” noted Giroud. Accustomed to picking up, “he remains a scorer but also knows how to highlight his partners; it is an asset that will have to be monitored”.

. Mbappé-Walker, straight arrows

The fastest defender in the English, Kyle Walker will have the heavy task of trying to muzzle Kylian Mbappé, designated public danger number one by all of England, but against whom he has already made very solid performances in the Champions League.

“Obviously I understand that we are focusing (on this duel) and I know what I have to do is stop it. But that’s easier said than done,” replied Wednesday the Manchester City defender.

Mbappé is certainly “a fantastic player and in great shape”, but “I don’t underestimate myself” and there is no question of him “rolling out the red carpet”, launched the person concerned, back on the pitch. for only two matches after two months without playing due to a groin injury.

The young French world champion is the current top scorer of the tournament with five goals in four games.

. Deschamps-Southgate, longevity and youth

Arrived on tiptoe after three years on the Espoirs bench, Gareth Southgate gradually regenerated a drifting English selection six years ago by doing a lot of work promoting young players.

The distrust of part of the public, because of a supposed tactical reluctance, has never been denied despite a semi-final at the 2018 World Cup and a final at the Euro in 2021. But Southgate now relies on a large workforce that allows him to have players like Kieran Trippier, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford or Mason Mount on the bench.

The depth of the tricolor workforce, affected by a cascade of injured and greatly rejuvenated, appears less obvious. But Didier Deschamps, in office for ten years, has been able to reinvent his defense and his midfield to install four attacking players (Griezmann, Dembélé, Mbappé, Giroud), a rarity with him.

The recipe works so far for the boss of the Blues, whose current contract ends after the tournament. A win on Saturday would earn him an overtime offer for sure.