Kyle Walker’s battle with Kylian Mbappe will be crucial as England look to bring down much-fancied France in their World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
Matty Cash, Mbappe’s last-16 opponent with Poland, and former England full-back Gary Neville are among those tipping the pacy Manchester City full-back as the ideal man to shackle Mbappe.
That France will look to work Mbappe into space in dangerous positions is not exactly news, but his 28.7 times per 90 minutes receiving the ball between the midfield and defensive lines is far and away the highest of any player from either of these teams.
Kingsley Coman, who deputised as France’s go-to wing forward in their dead rubber against Tunisia, is next at 21.7 with England’s Phil Foden at 21.2.
Mbappe has a further 20.3 offers to receive the ball in behind the defence per 90 minutes, so Walker will have to be on his guard at every moment.
France also average six final-third entries per 90 through the inside left channel, where Mbappe typically operates – that is the third-highest mark in the tournament after Brazil and Portugal.
England, though, have only allowed two entries in this channel altogether in their four matches – two each started by Walker and Kieran Trippier, with Trent Alexander-Arnold playing a small amount of time.
It is not just a case of denying Mbappe a direct path to goal. France lead all quarter-finalists with 24 crosses per 90 minutes. Of their 104 in total, Mbappe has delivered 29 himself – nine of which have found their target including an assist for Olivier Giroud against Australia.
Quite apart from the tactical match-up and his technical ability, Mbappe brings a terrifying physical threat through his pace.
He hit a top speed of 35.3 kilometres per hour in the last-16 win over Poland, with that mark bettered by only seven players in the tournament – Ghana’s Kamaldeen Sulemana tops all players at 35.66kph.
Ismaila Sarr, Antonee Robinson, Achraf Hakimi, David Raum, Dan James and Spain’s Nico Williams are the only other players to exceed Mbappe’s top speed and though Walker is not far behind at 34.38kph, he will be pushed to his limit.
Fifa breaks down the distance covered by players into walking, jogging, high-speed running and low-speed and high-speed sprinting.
Mbappe has covered just over 20 per cent of his distance at a sprint or high-speed running, with Walker just behind at 18 per cent – with the difference being Mbappe’s 4.36 per cent high-speed sprinting compared to 2.26 per cent for Walker.
Walker excelled, alongside England colleague John Stones, as City won their 2021 Champions League semi-final first leg against Mbappe’s Paris St Germain side and a repeat performance will be required on Saturday.
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