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England boss Gareth Southgate has finally admitted that France pose the biggest test England could possibly face at the World Cup after his side set up a quarter-final clash with the world champions on Saturday.
The Three Lions beat Senegal 3-0 in the last 16 on Sunday to reach the last eight for the second successive World Cup to meet Didier Deschamps’ side in the way of a semi-final berth after they saw off Poland 3-1 earlier in the day.
National Daily can confirm that England have only defeated France once in seven meetings since the turn of the century, while Southgate lost his only encounter with Les Bleus in the 3-2 defeat in June 2017.
Meanwhile, Les Bleus lifted the trophy in Russia in 2018 and ahead of the meeting at the Al Bayt Stadium, Southgate said: “In terms of France, it’s the biggest test we could face.
“They’re world champions with an incredible depth of talent and outstanding individual players. They’re very difficult to play against and score goals against, so it’s a fantastic challenge and a brilliant game to prepare for.”
England’s game with France is the second quarter-final to be confirmed after Argentina set up a contest with the Netherlands on Friday, and Southgate said: “The two quarter-finals that are already in place are historic rivalries.
“It’s a great game to be involved with and to test ourselves against the very best.”
France breezed past Poland thanks to two goals from Kylian Mbappe, who is the top scorer at the World Cup with five goals from four games.
Southgate has not failed to make Mbappe’s statement – who is still only 23 and also scored in the 2018 final when France beat Croatia with England’s boss admitting: “He’s a world-class player and has already delivered big moments in this tournament and in previous tournaments.”
The England manager also highlighted the qualities of two of Mbappe’s team-mates, saying: “I think [Antoine] Griezmann now has over 70 consecutive games for France and I think he’s also a phenomenal player.
“We know Olivier Giroud so well and they also have outstanding young midfield players. Everywhere you look, when we’re studying France at every age group, they have incredible depth of talent at every position.”
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