England vs France lineups: Projected XI, key battles, tactical focus
England and France square off in a huge World Cup quarterfinal in Qatar as the Three Lions and Les Bleus both have realistic chances of winning it all.
But only one will advance.
Who will Gareth Southgate line up? Will he switch to a back three to combat the obvious threat of Kylian Mbappe? Or will he stick with the 4-3-3 which has worked so well for most of this tournament?
As for Didier Deschamps, his reigning World Cup champs are clicking through the gears in attack and he has some big choices to make in midfield and defense. Will the long-time France boss get the big calls correct? He usually does.
Below is a look at the England vs France lineups, with analysis on the key tactical battles and decisions for Southgate and Deschamps.
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England lineup projection (3-4-3)
----- Pickford -----
--- Walker --- Stones --- Maguire ---
---- Trippier ---- Rice ---- Bellingham ---- Shaw ----
----- Saka ----- Kane ---- Foden -----
The big dilemma for Gareth Southgate is clear: back three or a back four? The former could give him more protection for the pace and threat of Kylian Mbappe, with Kieran Trippier at wing-back trying to pin him back and if that doesn’t work, Kyle Walker’s pace as a right-sided center back seems to be the perfection solution to nullify France’s main man. Also, Declan Rice can double up if Mbappe cuts inside. England have played most of the last few years in a 3-4-3, so why not go back to it for this very specific situation? In attack Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden will surely support Harry Kane (Raheem Sterling is back in the mix after a return home to deal with a family matter), while Jordan Henderson is probably the man to miss out in midfield with the excellent Jude Bellingham, just 19 years old, continuing in his role as a true No. 8.
France lineup projection (4-2-1-3)
----- Lloris -----
--- Kounde --- Konate --- Varane --- T. Hernandez ---
---- Rabiot ---- Tchouameni ----
----- Griezmannn -----
---- Dembele ---- Giroud ---- Mbappe ----
The back four and midfield has looked okay throughout this tournament and Deschamps has some excellent options if he wants to mix things up. Two from Ibrahima Konate, Raphael Varane and Dayot Upamecano will start but it seems like Upamecano and Varane will get the nod. Kounde has looked a bit clunky at right back and if he’s up against the slippery Foden, that could be a bad match-up for France. Maybe Benjamin Pavard will start? In midfield Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni are their first-choice pairing and have done well without the injured Kante and Pogba. But central midfield is definitely France’s weak spot. Griezmann has rolled back the years as a No. 10, while Dembele, Giroud and Mbappe will cause England’s defense plenty of problems as that attacking quartet can hurt you just about every way imaginable.