England, however, must stop him on Saturday night in Al Khor. If they are to advance beyond the quarter-finals, Gareth Southgate has to hatch a plan and shackle Mbappe. And Poland’s Matty Cash says if anyone can, Kyle Walker is the man.
‘Amazing, obviously unbelievable, probably my toughest opponent,’ said Cash, Poland’s right-back after emerging from his duel with Mbappe at Al Thumama Stadium, on Sunday.
Poland’s Matty Cash sent out a warning to England after being run ragged by Kylian Mbappe
The Aston Villa man admitted the Frenchman ‘burned his legs’ in their last-16 loss to France
Mbappe scored twice for France against Poland in a ruthless attacking display on Sunday
‘I’d have said before that Raheem Sterling was my toughest opponent. When we faced Manchester City he was brilliant. Sterling’s rapid but I think Mbappe is electric. He’s the quickest.
‘I spent the afternoon watching his clips, but I’m watching the videos while lying in bed. In real life, he’s burning my legs, that’s the difference. It’s a massive difference.
‘He’s a different level. I play in the Premier League week-in, week-out, and I play against top-class wingers, but he’s easily going to be the best player in the world. Speed, movement, look at his finishing. He’s got everything. He put two in the top corner, one in the left and one in the right.’
Cash said Mbappe was ‘the fastest player I’ve faced’ as he was left scrambling on the counter
‘I didn’t know whether to drop off or go tight,’ said the 25-year-old Aston Villa defender. ‘When I went tight he just spun in behind. When he gets the ball, stops and moves, he’s the quickest thing I’ve ever seen. When he stands you up and moves, he does it really well. He drops the shoulder, goes short then long.
‘Their game plan is to get the ball to the wingers and when it’s one-v-one you’ve got to try and stop him. I did everything I could, when it was one-v-one I thought I’d done OK against him. I got into a couple of races with him and I did alright. You look over your shoulder and he’s there.
‘He didn’t really run me once. There were times where he got space on the counter-attack, which is where he scored the second goal and that was the game changer, when they went 2-0 up.
‘That’s where he hurts teams. He’s probably in the top two or three players in the world at the minute.’
However, he believes England’s Kyle Walker has a good chance of stopping him in their quarter-final clash on Saturday night
Cash is in regular contact with Jack Grealish and Declan Rice, and they will have those conversations about France and Mbappe, and he believes Walker can keep him quiet.
‘Kyle Walker is just as quick as Mbappe,’ he said. ‘He’s England’s best right-back and he’s got way more experience than me. I don’t need to tell him anything. So if anyone’s going to stop Mbappe, Kyle Walker is the man. He’s rapid as well.’
Poland disturbed France when the tie was goalless, both with high balls onto Lloris and breaking behind their full-backs. Again, encouragement for England against the world champions.
‘There were two attempts cleared off the line,’ said Cash. ‘Football is a strange old game so if one of them goes in then everyone’s going to be saying “oh Poland are one-nil up”. Fine margins.
‘It wasn’t meant to be, every player gave their all and I thought we played really well, a lot better than we played against Argentina, so we can be proud of that. We go home with our heads held high and a lot of the young players will be going home with a lot more experience playing at a major tournament.’
Walker faced Mbappe for Man City against PSG four times last year and coped well
For Cash, the decision to opt for Poland via his mother’s heritage has served him well, and he goes home with a souvenir shirts from Lionel Messi and Mbappe to take home and frame having faced them both in the space of four days.
‘It’s a boy’s dream to play in a major tournament against these type of players,’ said Cash. ‘I’ll take a lot from that.’
Mbappe and France move on to face England, with boss Didier Deschamps convinced his Paris Saint-Germain star is more effective in this 4-3-3 shape than he was in 2018.
He has a fabulous understanding with Giroud, whose goal against Poland made him France’s record goalscorer, but if he stays clear of injuries it is only a matter of time before 23-year-old Mbappe takes the mantle.
‘It’s difficult to see the limit for Kylian,’ said Lloris. ‘He is capable to break all records. It’s amazing to have a teammate like him, for his spirit but for his talent as well.
‘There is a great connection between the team. We work together but, when you start to come close to titles, you need your main players at their best.’