AL WAKRAH, Qatar — Kyle Walker said he will not « roll out a red carpet » for Kylian Mbappe and added the in-form France forward must not stand in England’s way of reaching a World Cup semifinal.
The Manchester City defender is set to be handed the responsibility of stopping Mbappe, who is the top scorer in Qatar after taking his tally in the tournament to five goals with a brace in The Blues’ round-of-16 win over Poland.
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Walker has faced Mbappe three times at club level for City against Paris Saint-Germain — winning twice and losing once — and speaking during a news conference at England’s training base in Al Wakrah on Wednesday, he said: « I understand what I need to do and that is obviously to stop him. It is probably easier said than done but I don’t underestimate myself.
« I’ve played him before and I’ve come up against a lot of great players in my time playing for England, Man City and the clubs that I played for.
« So I have to treat it as another game. I have to take obviously extra care and give him the respect he deserves but not too much respect because he is also playing England and we can cause them problems. OK, it is going to be a tough game but not one player makes a team.
« The game is not England v Mbappe. It is England v France. We respect that he is a good player in good form at the minute but I’m not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to go and score . I am representing my country in the quarterfinal of a World Cup so it is do or die really. If we lose, we go home. He is not going to stand in my way of hopefully winning a World Cup for my country. »
Walker also dropped the clearest hint yet that he will seek to extend his international career through to Euro 2024.
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Speculation has been growing that the 32-year-old could quit England after these finals but as he prepares to earn his 73rd cap against France, Walker said: « I’m a guy that takes a game at a time. I don’t I can assure you now that I will go for as long as possible, as long as I feel it is right for myself, my family and also the nation and if the manager thinks that’s right.
« I feel really fit. I feel strong. I feel energetic. I still want to achieve things that I’ve already achieved and I still haven’t achieved in football. And the hunger is still there. I feel great. It is not going to happen any time soon but again, who knows in the future what will happen?
« In 2024, I’m 34. As long as I am performing well and feeling good in my body and the manager wants to pick me first and foremost, then we’ll see. But again, I’m really not thinking too far into the future. That’s not to bypass your question, it is one game at a time which is on Saturday and then we’ll look and see what happens from there on. »
Declan Rice missed training due to illness while Callum Wilson was absent with a minor muscular problem. Raheem Sterling is expected to make a decision on whether to return to the England squad in the next 24 hours following a robbery at his Surrey home.