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World Cup 2022 column - Glenn Hoddle: England should target France’s Achilles heel and exploit the space behind Kylian Mbappe
BTSport.com spoke to former Three Lions manager Glenn Hoddle ahead of England's World Cup quarter-final clash against France.
England are gearing up for a seismic clash on Saturday night as Gareth Southgate's side look to overcome the world champions France and advance to the World Cup semi-finals.
The Three Lions brushed aside Senegal in the round of 16 on Sunday but now face a much sterner test in the form of Didier Deschamps' defending World Cup holders.
Ahead of the mouth-watering quarter-final, BTSport.com spoke to former England manager Glenn Hoddle to get his thoughts on the clash.
So much of the pre-match talk around Saturday's game has centred around how Southgate will attempt to nullify the threat posed by France superstar Kylian Mbappe.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been in typically scintillating form for the French and scored two spectacular goals in the round of 16 to defeat Poland.
Mbappe already has nine World Cup goals to his name at just 23 years old and has been hailed by many as the tournament's best player.
England's Kyle Walker looks set to be the man tasked with keeping him quiet and the right back insisted he would not be "rolling out the red carpet" for his opponent come Saturday night.
Yet Hoddle believes rather than be cowed by the threat of Mbappe, the space left by the forward might provide the key for England's attack given his advanced positioning out wide for the French in previous matches.
"There's an Achilles heel for France," Hoddle says. "Mbappe sits out wide and pushes the full back high up the pitch but it leaves an enormous amount of space to run into behind him.
"If England are able to pin the left back [likely to be Theo Hernandez], you could have a two-on-one situation behind Mbappe and suddenly that is a real threat.
"England could keep it three vs three in midfield, Walker can hover around Mbappe but when England have the ball they will have space and time."
Hoddle recalls watching France's last-16 clash with Poland, where the space behind Mbappe was evident for the Poles to exploit but they opted not to and eventually fell to a 3-1 loss following a brace from the PSG star.
"It was only when Poland were losing that Matty Cash [Poland's right back] began to have a go and even then it was half-and-half. But there was so much space for him on the right-hand side.
"You'd want Bukayo Saka, or whoever Southgate picks, to take France's full back high up the pitch and level with the French centre-backs to force space to open up behind Mbappe.
"And Walker can do that, he can get aggressive on him and attack the space. If Jude Bellingham or Jordan Henderson is on the right of the midfield three, they can link up with Walker."
Following all the speculation on how England will stop Mbappe on the right-hand side and the discussion of Southgate's defensive game plan in the build-up, Hoddle believes the French coach Deschamps should consider springing a surprise.
"If I was Deschamps, I’d start Mbappe on the right-hand side and going at Luke Shaw, trying to get inside him and running at Maguire... that's one thing England don't want.
"I'd give that a go if I was Deschamps for the first 20 minutes, switch Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, to throw a real spanner in the works."
The standout brilliance of Mbappe has left some of France's other players operating somewhat under the radar in Qatar this month.
The likes of Dembele and Adrien Rabiot are quietly enjoying excellent form but Hoddle points to Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann as a player who could also make the difference.
"Griezmann has done OK, he's had a couple of good games but with his character there's always a part of him that can step up in a big game like this and put in a nine-out-of-ten performance to decide the match.
"For England, Jordan Pickford's having a very good tournament so far and he needs to have another very good game to keep France's forwards out."
And given the array of attacking talent on display, coupled with both sides' significantly weaker defences, Hoddle feels we could be in for a classic World Cup quarter-final.
"I think there'll be goals. It could be 3-2 and I could see it going into extra time... I'll go with England to win it 3-2 in extra time!"