Kyle Walker insists he will not “roll out the red carpet” for Kylian Mbappe when England face France in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
The expected showdown between Walker and Mbappe on the flank at the Al Bayt Stadium has been widely billed as crucial to the game’s outcome, with the French star currently the tournament’s top scorer on five goals.
Walker only returned from a groin injury in England’s final group game against Wales, having missed almost two months of action, but the team are yet to concede since his comeback.
“He’s a fantastic player in great form so it’s not going to be an easy task,” Walker said about his rival at a press conference on Wednesday.
“But as a professional footballer you want to play against the best players and he is one of the best players, if not the best, in the world at the minute.”
When asked how Mbappe might be stopped, he continued: “Of course I understand the focus and what I need to do to stop him. It’s easier said than done but I don’t underestimate myself.
“I’ve come up against a lot of great players but I have to treat it just as another game. You have to give him the respect he deserves but not too much because he’s also playing England and we can cause them problems.
“Yes it will be a tough game but not one player makes a team. The game’s not England v Mbappe. The game’s England v France.
“I’m not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to score. I’m representing my country in the quarter-final of a World Cup so it’s do or die.
“If we lose we go home, he’s not going to stand in my way of hopefully winning a World Cup for my country.”
Mbappe famously compared Walker to a “tank” in 2021 after the pair squared off in the Champions League with PSG and Manchester City.
Walker, who also played down talk this could be his last major tournament with England, said the “standard of players has gone up” since their last World Cup adventure, when Gareth Southgate’s inexperienced side fell 2-1 to Croatia after fading in extra time.
The winner of Saturday’s clash will meet either Portugal or Morocco in the semi-finals.
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