World Cup 2022: England boss Gareth Southgate looking forward to ‘acid test’ against France
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England boss Gareth Southgate praised his side’s “ruthless” victory against Senegal that has set up an “acid test” game against defending champions France in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Southgate said facing the two-time world champions will be a “great challenge” for the Three Lions.
The quarter-final takes place on Saturday, 10 December (19:00 GMT).
“We know this is a step up from what we’ve had so far,” said Southgate after Sunday’s 3-0 win over Senegal.
“But the team have garnered so much experience in the last few years, they’re playing with confidence and we look threatening.
“We’re scoring goals and another clean sheet is lovely to see. We’re in a good place but we know the level of the opposition as well.”
England progress ‘phenomenal’
England were nervy in the opening 30 minutes of their match against Senegal but Jordan Henderson’s opener put them in control.
“I was pleased with the ruthlessness of our execution, the progress they are making is phenomenal,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The team made a very complicated game tonight look straightforward. It wasn’t the case but because of the mentality and attitude we made it look that way.”
This is the first time England have won a knockout game at three consecutive major tournaments after they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and the final of Euro 2020.
But what is arguably England’s toughest challenge yet under Southgate is one that he is relishing.
“It couldn’t be more exciting. France are the biggest test we could face. World champions, incredible depth of players and very difficult to score goals. A fantastic challenge,” said Southgate.
The Netherlands will take on Argentina in the other quarter-final that has been decided so far and Southgate expressed his excitement over having two quarter-finals between historic footballing nations.
“The two quarter-finals are fantastic historic rivalries. Our history is not quite as good as the others’ by the way, but we’re really pleased. It’s a brilliant game for us to be involved,” he said.
Kylian Mbappe put on a masterclass and Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time leading goalscorer in Les Bleus’ 3-1 victory over Poland, as and France showed that, despite the losses of Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba before the tournament, they remain a potent force.
“Mbappe is a world-class player, [Antoine] Griezmann is a phenomenal player, we know Giroud well. They have outstanding midfield players. Everywhere you look, they have incredible depth of talent,” said Southgate.
Saturday’s match will mark the first time England have faced France at a World Cup in 40 years, the two sides having last met at the 1982 tournament in Spain when England ran out 3-1 winners after Bryan Robson put them ahead after just 27 seconds.
England captain Harry Kane said he is expecting a “tough battle” against France after he scored his first goal of the tournament on Sunday.
“Knockout games are never easy. We have shown great maturity throughout the tournament,” said Kane.
“Mentality was top from the beginning. Another knockout win, over the years they have not been easy for England but we have a great mixture of youth and experience now.
“We will enjoy this one, but then our focus turns to that [France game]. It will be a really tough battle. If you are going to win the World Cup you have to play the best teams and France are up there.”
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