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5 things England must do to beat France in World Cup quarter-finals

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So this is it, then. Another quarter-final, the third in a row at major tournaments for Gareth Southgate and England.

In 2018, we brushed Sweden aside. In 2021, it was Ukraine, who were dismissed via a 4-0 thrashing.

This time, however, it is the reigning champions France. It is Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele, who are not quite the four horsemen of the apocalypse but still quite a frightening prospect.

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Mbappe, in particular, has been the best player in the tournament so far. It’s his world, his World Cup and we’re all just living in it.

England have stars of their own. Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka all look at home on this stage and have the quality to match their French counterparts. Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world regardless of how many goals he has to his name so far. There’s a chance.

Here are the five things England must do to beat France in the World Cup quarter-final.

Kylian Mbappé, Kamil Glik

It will not be down to Kyle Walker alone to keep Mbappe quiet / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

Easier said than done, right? How on earth do you stop a player like KylianMbappe?

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You can’t leave him one on one. At the same time, you can’t get too tight and leave him with space to run into. You can’t even focus entirely on him as Griezmann and Dembele are threats on the ball themselves. Well, what can you do?

Starve him of service. That’s the only way. England need to cut off supply lines into Mbappe as best they can.

This will largely involve Kyle Walker man-marking the PSG forward at all times and then the likes of Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson and Saka triangulating on the right side of England’s midfield to patrol the space in front of and around France’s danger man and make it difficult for him to receive the ball into feet. Better yet, ensure he is at least penned in and forced to pass back once he does get it.

John Stones will need to be aware of any diagonal runs and quickly drop back on the cover if required. Jordan Pickford will need to be smart off his line, too. The whole thing is a team effort – this does not come down to Walker having a good game alone. Matty Cash did so for Poland but Mbappe still tore them to shreds.

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Finally, England will need to rein in the press slightly to ensure Les Bleus don’t find a way between the lines and break. It has to be controlled. Mbappe is at his most devastating in transition (as Poland found out) but if they can limit him to receiving the ball in static positions and surrounded by white shirts, that will severely diminish his impact.

Good luck with all that, lads.

Adrien Rabiot

Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni have both impressed for France / Markus Gilliar – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

For France, the absence of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba has scarcely been felt. That’s about as good a compliment as it gets.

Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Touchameni have developed a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield and will pose England real problems with their work rate and ability on the ball. Griezmann, too, is playing deeper than he ever has and excelling as their third man.

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That being said, Rice commands the space in which Griezmann likes to operate – just in front of the back four, between the centre-backs and full-backs – as well as anyone else in the world. Jude Bellingham has the physicality and technical quality to go toe-to-toe with Tchouameni. Henderson is not the player he once was but has the veteran savvy to keep tabs on Rabiot.

It will be a fascinating contest between two midfield trios that look extremely well-matched on paper. It’s a cliche that games like these are often decided in the middle of the pitch, but there’s a reason. England will need to come out on top there to have any chance.

Harry Maguire

Maguire has been a huge threat from set-pieces at the World Cup / Visionhaus/GettyImages

France have already conceded one goal so far at this World Cup from a set-piece: Andreas Christensen’s header for Denmark. That might not seem like a lot but Didier Deschamps’ team have looked more vulnerable from corners and free-kicks than that the figure might let on. We’ll get to Hugo Lloris later.

Enter Slabhead and his centre-back partner Stones. Both players excel at attacking set-pieces and England often do a good job of freeing them in the area with clever movement and blocking from other players. Against Iran they caused mayhem from corners and were unfortunate not to score.

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Kane, too, is extremely dangerous if he can find a yard of space. Thank god the brief travesty of him actually taking the corners at Euro 2016 is long over.

England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018 was largely built upon the team’s effectiveness from dead-ball opportunities. Given the way knockout games (especially against opponents as imposing as France) can often be decided by these moments, the fine margins during those split-second moments of chaos inside either penalty box, England will need to make the most of them.

Who knows, we might finally be awarded a penalty.

Pathe Ciss, Phil Foden

Foden dazzled against Senegal / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Jules Kounde is a fine defender but is definitely out of position at right-back, although he has played there on occasion. Given that the winger ahead of him is Dembele, and Dembele’s defensive work rate is minimal, he will often be left on his own to contain Foden which could prove a recipe for disaster for the French.

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Against Senegal, England’s play was heavily focused down the left side where Luke Shaw, Bellingham and Kane combined with the Manchester City forward. If England can do the same against France through the quick interplay and Foden drawing Kounde forward there will be space to exploit behind an otherwise tight defensive unit.

With the added threat of Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford to come off the bench and run at both Kounde and Raphael Varane inside him, this area could be the key for England and is perhaps the one part of the pitch where they have a clear advantage on paper.

Hugo Lloris

Lloris has looked shaky for France / Marvin Ibo Guengoer – GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

While still an excellent shot-stopper, Lloris is looking increasingly suspect in the air and with his distribution on the ground. These are things England can use to their advantage in the quarter-final.

We’ve already mentioned set-pieces and any high balls into the box, particularly aimed at the forehead of Maguire, should cause havoc given Lloris’ propensity to misjudge and fumble catches. Players – looking at you here, Harry – will need to react should he spill.

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Beyond that, England should funnel French possession back to Lloris as often as possible leaving him to play out from the back with his feet. The worst-case scenario is he goes long to Giroud but with Rice and the two centre-backs England should be able to win those balls fairly comfortably.

The best case is that Lloris panics – as he is prone to doing – and gives us the ball back in dangerous positions where we can burst forward. Simply put, Lloris isn’t the goalkeeper he was and putting the French captain under pressure will likely lead to mistakes.

Onwards, then, to Saturday.



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Player ratings as Casemiro strikes twice in FA Cup win

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Manchester United cruised into the fifth round of the FA Cup by overpowering ten-man Reading at Old Trafford on Saturday night.

The Championship visitors kept their hosts out for the first 45 minutes but United eventually broke their resistance as Casemiro struck twice in quick succession.

The Brazilian ran onto Antony’s pass and chipped Joe Lumley to put Erik ten Hag’s side 1-0 up before a long range strike found its way into the bottom corner from 25 yards.

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Andy Carroll charged around with aggression all night and ended up being sent off for two bookable offences before Fred added a third, cleverly back-heeling Fernandes’ cross in at the front post.

United switched off in the 72nd minute to gift Reading a consolation, with Amadou Salif Mbengue given a free header to reduce the deficit three minutes after his introduction.

The Red Devils saw out the rest of the contest to book their place in the next round, joining the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham and Leeds.

United looked sharp throughout the first half, quickly exploding into attack with opportunities for Wout Weghorst and Christian Eriksen before a double chance fell to for Eriksen and Marcus Rashford. However, Lumley denied them on both occasions.

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Fernandes lifted an effort just over before a brilliant Antony run ended without reward.

The deadlock seemed to have been broken ten minutes before half time when Rashford smashed in from close range, but Weghorst was shown to have been offside in the build-up.

The breakthrough eventually came when two Brazilians combined to cut through Reading’s defence. Antony picked out Casemiro with a precise pass, allowing the former Real Madrid midfielder to run in and dink Lumley for the game’s opener.

He netted his second goal just before the hour mark with more of a pot shot. A free kick was never fully cleared by Reading and Casemiro struck a fierce effort from distance that whistled in.

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United’s job got a lot easier when Carroll was given his second yellow card for wiping out Casemiro and they took advantage of their numerical superiority by netting a third.

A short corner was worked to Fernandes, who fired the ball into Fred to inventively flick the ball beyond Lumley.

The visitors were rewarded for their efforts when United suddenly went limp at a corner, allowing substitute Mbengue a free header to reduce the deficit. It meant little, however, with the Royals exiting the FA Cup and United reaching the last 16.

GK: David de Gea – 6/10 – Unsurprisingly a quiet night for De Gea, who had to clean up loose ball on occasion. Sharp stop to deny Hoilett.

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RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 7/10 – Left the tackling to Malacia on the left but another display which shows his improvement under Ten Hag.

CB: Victor Lindelof – 6/10 – Decent enough for most of the night but he and Maguire won’t be back in the Premier League starting XI anytime soon conceding poor goals from corners.

CB: Harry Maguire – 6/10 – We all got the Maguire vs Carroll battle we didn’t know we needed. He came out of that clash having performed well enough.

LB: Tyrell Malacia – 7/10 – Did present a big chance to Hoilett but managed to wake up to deliver a better performance.

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CM: Casemiro – 9/10 – Provided a run from midfield and finished Antony’s pass well before netting from distance. Simply cannot do any wrong right now.

CM: Christian Eriksen – 6/10 – Came close with a free kick that whizzed past the post.

RW: Antony – 8/10 – Produced some marvellous running and the weight of pass on his delivery to Casemiro was perfect. Delivered end product which has been missing recently.

AM: Bruno Fernandes – 7/10 – Got United purring in attack and played the ball in for Fred to make in 3-0.

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LW: Marcus Rashford – 7/10 – No goals for the England international but his pace and direct running was a threat.

ST: Wout Weghorst – 7/10 – Provided some more selfless pressing and occupied defenders while his teammates did the damage.

Substitutes

Fred (57′ for Christian Eriksen) – 8/10 – Got United’s third and was efficient during his sub appearance.

Facundo Pellestri (68′ for Fernandes) – 6/10 – Quiet final 20 minute appearance.

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Alejandro Garnacho (68′ for Rashford) – 6/10

Kobbie Mainoo (68′ for Rashford) – 6/10

Anthony Elanga (73′ for Weghorst) – 6/10

Manager

Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – United averted any fears of a potential upset with a second half blitz which allowed Ten Hag to shuffle his pack in late on.

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GK: Joe Lumley (5); CB: Tom McIntyre (6), CB: Tom Holmes (6), CB: Junior Hoilett (5); RWB: Andy Yiadom (5), CM: Jeff Hendrick (6), CM: Abdul Rahman Baba (6), CM: Tom Ince (7), LWB: Mamadou Loum (6) ST: Andy Carroll (5), ST: Lucas Joao (6).

SUBS: Tyrese Fornah (6), Amadou Salif Mbengue (8), Dean Bouzanis (6), Shane Long (6).

Player of the match – Casemiro



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Tete undergoing medical with Leicester

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Tete will have a medical with Leicester on Saturday night ahead of his move from parent club Shakhtar Donetsk, 90min understands.

The Brazilian winger was offered to Premier League sides on loan with the view of a permanent deal back in December before the Foxes held talks with the representatives of the Lyon loanee regarding a move to the King Power Stadium.

Lyon are prepared to lose the 22-year-old as manager Laurent Blanc plans to move his side in a different direction. Despite that, Tete is their second highest top scorer this season after Alexandre Lacazette – who has 11 goals – with six strikes.

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Premier League sides West Ham, Tottenham, Newcastle and Arsenal were all alerted to his availability. David Moyes’ Hammers did explore a deal only to renege on their interest later.

Tete’s arrival will add firepower to Brendan Rodgers’ squad. Harvey Barnes and James Maddison are their top Premier League scorers this season with seven each, with Patson Daka, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho all struggling for form.

On this edition of Talking Transfers, Scott Saunders hosts Toby Cudworth & Graeme Bailey to discuss some of the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maximo Perrone & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Tete is a naturally right-sided player and has Champions League experience with Shakhtar, scoring three times in the UEFA competition.

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Leicester were quiet during the summer transfer window, bringing in only Alex Smithies and Wout Faes, but have signed Victor Kristiansen this month to add competition at left back.



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‘Nice one, Sonny!’ Tottenham chant lyrics, origin and video

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Son Heung-min had spent two-and-a-half seasons at Tottenham Hotspur, made more than 100 appearances and scored 40 goals before he was finally granted his own song by the Spurs faithful.

The eminently loveable South Korea international has scored almost 100 times since, eliciting countless renditions of a fittingly cheery tune from his adoring public in north London.

Here’s everything you need to know about the fascinating origins of a song that has become a staple of N17.

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Chirped out to a bouncy rhythm, Tottenham fans don’t have to memorise much to keep this jaunty chant in their head. The lyrics go:

Nice one Sonny,
Nice one Son,
Nice one Sonny,
Let’s have another one…

And repeat. And repeat, and repeat…

As a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme, Son will be pleased that even those on Tottenham’s terraces don’t let anything go to waste. ‘Nice one, Sonny!’ was originally ‘Nice one, Cyril!’, in honour of the Spurs left-back Cyril Knowles from the 1960s and ’70s.

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Pat Jennings joined Spurs in the same year as Knowles and insisted that the former England international would “have been proud” to have his song moulded in Son’s image.

To find the inspiration for Knowles’ chant, you have to turn to an earworm from 1970s advertisement. Before turning his pen to a bestselling memoir, Peter Mayle conjured up the slogan ‘Nice one, Cyril’ for Wonderloaf Bread. In the iconic advert, a baker by the name of Cyril saves the day at a bakery and is cheerily praised.

Spurs fans snagged the tagline which Cockerel Chorus expanded into a single for Tottenham’s run to the 1973 League Cup final. The song, written by Harold Spiro and Helen Clarke, topped out at number 14 in the charts. Cyril Knowles played the full 90 minutes as Spurs beat Norwich City 1-0 in the showpiece event.

When did Tottenham fans first chant ‘Nice one, Sonny!’?

It’s tricky to pin down the exact moment that ‘Nice one, Sonny!’ was first whispered by a Tottenham fan. However, the reinterpretation of the classic appears to have gained a spot in the hymnbook on 11 March 2018, when Son bagged a brace in a 4-1 win away to Bournemouth.

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That victory came at the end of four game sequence in which Son scored seven goals across three competitions for Spurs, forcing himself into the throat of the watching public.

Although, spare a thought for one Tottenham fan that pondered why Son hadn’t been serenaded with a specific chant all the way back in May 2017. Ten months before that hot streak, they wrote on the Spurs Community message board: “Surely he deserves one by now? I always thought the best one would be the old Cyril Knowles one.”

Even some of his teammates know the lyrics.



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