England spent little time celebrating a 3-0 win over Senegal before thinking about a chilling World Cup quarter-final next Saturday against defending champions France and current top scorer Kylian Mbappe.
“It’s the biggest test we could face. They are world champions with incredible depth of talent and outstanding individual players,” England manager Gareth Southgate said on Sunday of the match between the two European powers who have not met in a World Cup since 1982.
“The two quarter-finals that are already underway are fantastic historic football rivalries with great games of the past. So it’s a brilliant match to participate in and test ourselves against the best,” he added.
In the other quarterfinal key that is already defined, Argentina will face the Netherlands next Friday.
England would love to repeat their last World Cup meeting 40 years ago when they beat France 3-1 with two goals from Bryan Robson.
But their sometimes slow central defenders, Harry Maguire and John Stones, may have their work cut out for them trying to stop Mbappe, Qatar’s top scorer with five goals.
“Of course he is a world-class player, he has already had great moments in this tournament and in previous tournaments,” Southgate said, highlighting the talent also of French strikers Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.
“Wherever you look, they have an incredible depth of talent. It’s a big test, but we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
Harry Kane, who is one goal shy of Wayne Rooney’s record 53 goals for England, said they are already focused on France.
“We enjoyed tonight’s victory, but our focus is already heading straight to France, we will recover very well to prepare. It’s going to be a really tough game, they’re reigning champions, it’s going to be a good battle.”
“If you want to win the World Cup you have to play against the best teams in the world and France is definitely one of them,” he said.