Kyle Walker says he will “not roll out a red carpet” for Kylian Mbappe and England will have more concerns than just one player in their World Cup quarter-final against holders France.
England face France in the last eight in Qatar on Saturday (19:00 GMT) in the first knockout match between the two nations at a major tournament.
Mbappe, 23, is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals in four games. “I understand what I need to do and that is to stop him,” Walker, 32, said. “It’s easier said than done but I don’t underestimate myself,” the England right-back added.
“He is a fantastic player in great form. It is not going to be an easy task, but as a professional footballer you want to play against the best and I think he is one of the best, if not the best, in the world at the moment.”
Mbappe did not train with the rest of the France squad on Tuesday, instead having a recovery session, and France defender Ibrahima Konate said there was “nothing to worry about”.
“We haven’t really spoken about it at all. He was just resting,” the Liverpool centre-back said. “Walker and Mbappe are two very great players. Walker is one of the best right-backs in the world, I can’t wait to see this battle.”
Walker is familiar with Mbappe, having come up against the Paris St-Germain forward with Manchester City in the previous two Champions League campaigns.
City won two and lost one of the three meetings in which both players featured – and Mbappe has admitted he found facing Walker challenging.
On the Frenchman’s comments, Walker said: “That’s nice to hear because he had a tough game against me. I know he’s a top player but we’re not playing tennis. It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team game.
“You have to give him respect but not too much. Yes, it will be a tough game but a team cannot just be about one person,” he added. “I’m not going to roll out a red carpet for him and tell him to score. It’s a World Cup, it’s do or die.”
The Three Lions defeated Senegal 3-0 in their last-16 match, while France also progressed smoothly with a 3-1 win over Poland.
Mbappe scored twice in that French victory and the forward has now been involved in his team’s last seven World Cup goals.
“When we’ve played Paris St-Germain in the Champions League, we’re not just thinking of Mbappe and it’s the same on Saturday,” Walker said.