Southgate’s hopes of leading England to a third successive semi-final at major tournaments hinge on finding a solution to a problem that has proved impossible for any team to solve in Qatar
Gareth Southgate and Kylian Mbappe
England manager Gareth Southgate is wrestling with the biggest dilemma of his reign as he tries to plot a way to stop the “sensational” Kylian Mbappe in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.
Southgate’s hopes of leading England to a third successive semi-final at major tournaments hinge on finding a solution to a problem that has proved impossible for any team to solve in Qatar.
Just how do you subdue a player with Mbappe’s lethal combination of electric pace, balletic skill and clinical finishing? Australia, Denmark and Poland failed to come up with an appropriate answer as Mbappe scored in his three starts on route to the quarter-finals. Four years after playing a key role in France’s World Cup triumph in Russia, Mbappe is the tournament’s most feared player.
The 23-year-old already has five goals in four games in Qatar, while his haul of nine career World Cup goals puts him level with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and one ahead of Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo. Now it is Southgate’s turn to sit the daunting Mbappe exam. “Look, he is a world-class player who is always producing the moments when they are needed. That is what those top players do. That is the challenge we face,” Southgate said.
So what will Southgate do to combat Mbappe’s threat? One answer would be to switch England’s 4-3-3 formation to a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 system, which would allow Kyle Walker to move from right back to supplement the central defence.
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