Round of 16 victories at the 2022 World Cup for holders France and England over Poland and Senegal respectively has set up a tantalising quarter-final matchup between the two major European nations.

It was the fixture English supporters had their eyes on in the build-up to the tournament as they were mapping out the Three Lions’ path to World Cup glory. While Les Bleus certainly aren’t as imperious as they were four years ago, they’ve dazzled in Qatar at times thanks to the magic of Kylian Mbappe.

The Parisian superstar is leading the Golden Boot race with five goals in four games and heads into Saturday’s quarter-final having scored twice in France’s 3-0 triumph over Poland. He’s in frightening form but fortunately for England, Harry Maguire is a man reborn.

While Kyle Walker and John Stones – with the help of a midfielder – will primarily be tasked with mitigating Mbappe’s distinct threat, Maguire will undoubtedly encounter the generational superstar, too.

The Manchester United defender has faced the Frenchman once in his career, and here’s a reminder of what went down in that matchup.

Manchester United have history with Paris Saint-Germain and the pair pitted wits in the 2020/21 Champions League group stage after the Red Devils memorably knocked Les Parisiens out of the competition two seasons prior.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United stunned PSG in the French capital on Matchday 1 of the group before they welcomed Thomas Tuchel’s side to Old Trafford on Matchday 5. Maguire partnered Victor Lindelof in defence, while Mbappe started down the right flank with Moise Kean and Neymar completing PSG’s front line.

The Brazilian gifted the visitors the lead in an empty Theatre of Dreams before Marcus Rashford restored parity just after the 30-minute mark.

Anthony Martial spurned two gilt-edged opportunities to give United the lead after half-time and the Frenchman was made to pay as Marquinhos scrambled home PSG’s second with just over 20 minutes remaining. Fred, who was lucky not to be dismissed in the first half, then received his second yellow card which completely compromised United’s effort.

PSG waltzed to the finish and it was the star of the show, Neymar, who rounded off PSG’s victory in stoppage time.

For our two protagonists, Mbappe and Maguire, it was a rather forgettable encounter.

In short, they’re not huge fans. The England centre-back, despite his impressive World Cup campaign, has been branded the Three Lions’ “weak link” by L’Equipe ahead of the quarter-final.

The French newspaper wrote: “Harry Maguire’s slowness could prove detrimental to the England rear guard, which Gareth Southgate could strengthen by abandoning his 4-3-3 for a 3-4-3, as he does every time he faces the best selections.”

Maguire certainly does lack a turn of pace and despite L’Equipe’s prediction of Southgate shifting to a back three, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see England retain a four-man defence. A back three would likely see Maguire start at left centre-back, potentially exposing him in wide areas against Ousmane Dembele.

Mbappe vs Walker is the one-vs-one duel that could decide Saturday’s bout in what’s poised to be a thrilling encounter.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *