In an interview with Sky Sports senior reporter Melissa Reddy, Gary Neville discusses England's "game of a lifetime" with France and why Kyle Walker is equipped to handle the pace and power of Kylian Mbappe
Tuesday 6 December 2022 13:29, UK
Gary Neville believes England vs France in the World Cup quarter-finals is a "game of a lifetime" and thinks Kyle Walker is the perfect man to match-up Kylian Mbappe.
England set up a huge World Cup showdown with the defending champions after easing past Senegal with a 3-0 victory in the last 16 on Sunday night.
"It's a game of a lifetime on Saturday," Neville told Sky Sports.
"When I think back to my own career and playing in games like that in Euro 1996 or in 2004 and 2006 against Portugal. These games are once or twice in a lifetime opportunities. England vs France on a Saturday night at a World Cup quarter-final, they don't come around in your life very often. They are big moments. I can't wait.
"I don't think the lads will be able to wait for it. This is a game we can lose we know that, they are world champions and a fantastic team. I always think you can go and enjoy games like this as there is less pressure than playing against a Senegal. As if you get knocked out there, all hell breaks loose.
"If you lose on Saturday, unless it's a shambles, which it won't be, you are going to come out of the tournament getting a par. Going out in the second round is a bogey, semi-finals are a birdie and a final is an eagle. And winning it will be an albatross."
Keeping Mbappe - the standout player in this tournament so far - quiet will be a key tactic in trying to overcome the holders. It is likely England will have Walker tasked with the job and Neville thinks there is no better right-back in the world equipped to perform the task as well as the Manchester City defender.
"I think we have the best right-back in the world to be able to deal with Kylian Mbappe," Neville said.
"In terms of physicality, pace and experience, I can't think of anyone better to match Mbappe than Kyle Walker. That's not to say he'll keep him quiet for 90 minutes as Mbappe is sensational and special. But we have a chance as Walker can match him in certain areas."
It was not a completely positive 24 hours for England as Raheem Sterling had to head back to the UK from the World Cup camp after intruders broke into his home.
Sterling missed England's 3-0 win over Senegal as a result, having started two of the Three Lions' three games at the World Cup so far.
It is understood Sterling wanted to get home as soon as he was alerted to the break-in, having been very shaken and concerned for the wellbeing of his children.
Neville said how the situation was dealt with by all concerned shows how far football has come when it comes to showing compassion for serious issues involving players.
He said: "What it tells us is that very bad things are happening in the world and we should reflect upon that but also the way in which English football, Gareth Southgate and the media deal with this now. We're more respectful with compassion and empathy where we put football aside and people first.
"That wouldn't have happened 20 years ago. There would have been a different reaction to all sides. The player maybe would feel he couldn't go home or feel comfortable in having that discussion. The manager or the staff would have been more of the opinion 'what can you do there - we'll look after your family and you stay here, we've got a game to win'. And the English media would have treated it differently, so we're all in a better place to deal with it. All our thoughts are with Raheem and his family."