Dwight Yorke doesn’t think football is coming home.
The Manchester United legend would like to be proved wrong, giving his strong ties to England, but he predicts Gareth Southgate’s squad will struggle to deal with the crushing burden of expectation and the X-factor of France megastar Kylian Mbappe.
The old rivals square off in a mouth-watering World Cup quarter-final on Sunday (6am AEDT) in a clash between the planet’s fourth (France) and fifth (England) ranked sides.
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“This is where I think England will come up short,” Yorke said in an exclusive interview with Wide World of Sports
“This will undoubtedly be the biggest test. I think they had a reasonable ride to the quarter-finals, to do what they had to do in terms of getting the results so take nothing away from England.
“But the French have got three major stars of the competition and the new superstar. We talk about (Lionel) Messi inspiring his Argentina teammates – well Mbappe is the man.
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“He’s the one individual that they really have to stop. The opposition that they’ve played is not really like the top boys yet.”
England topped Group B after thrashing Iran 6-2 and Wales 3-0 while being held to a scoreless draw against the United States.
They then outclassed Senegal 3-0 in the round of 16.
France, the defending champions, won Group D by beating Australia 4-1 and Denmark 2-1 before losing 1-0 to Tunisia with a second string team.
Les Bleus then eased past Poland 3-1 in the round of 16 with Mbappe scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament to lead the golden boot race by two.
Yorke added that England had struggled to get past the heavyweights at the big tournaments under coach Gareth Southgate.
“In the past six years under Gareth, who’s somebody I know personally, the opportunity they’ve (England) had to win major tournaments they haven’t taken,” Yorke said.
“And I feel like that will always be a burden on them. Going into this, the pressure will even more because they’ve been to semi-finals (losing 2-1 to Croatia at the 2018 World Cup). They’ve been to (Euro) finals (losing on penalties to Italy in 2020), so quarter-final stage, you know, is what is expected of this England team.
“This is a different type of pressure, playing against a real world class team, the defending champions of the World Cup. They don’t come much bigger than this. And I feel that with this additional pressure, I’m not so sure they will be able to (win).
“It would be amazing and I do hope that they can because obviously England is very close to my heart in terms of being there for over 30 years. But I just think that when they need that little X-factor they always seem to come up shorts.
“And I feel like that will be the case come game time.”
Dwight Yorke previews the World Cup Quarter Finals – Brought to you by Sportsbet
Yorke, now coaching A-League outfit Macarthur, said there was “20 times” more pressure and attention being a football manager in England compared to Australia.
“Just a totally different level. Gareth has been in the job for six years,” Yorke said.
“So he has the experience, you understand what comes with it, and he has to be cool and collected about his decisions, and not be misled by what people or the outside media are saying.
“And I think that’s the key for any sort of manager, you can easily get caught up in the hype, rather than staying in the moment. If you’re going to fail, fail doing it your way, and if you’re going to be successful, ideally the same way, you’re not going to get influenced by other people.
“And I think that probably will be the key if he is to be successful.”
As well as trying to plot a way to slow down Mbappe, Southgate has had to handle the setback of Raheem Sterling returning home to London.
Sterling left Qatar to be with family after an armed robbery at his home but the Chelsea star will re-join the squad on Friday ahead of the quarter-final.
It is unclear whether Sterling will feature against France or not but either way Yorke said it was an unwelcome distraction.
“The manager, players or members of the staff in the squad – they would be a little bit disturbed by that,” Yorke said.
“Because they’re onto something that is going to be maybe a life changing moment for them if they are to be successful and win the World Cup.
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“The reality is that when something personal like that happens, you get affected by it because it could have happened to any other member of staff in that team.
“Unfortunately it happened to Raheem and that could be a little bit of a distraction.
“But again, this is where the manager, the staff, the players come together and sort of unity even further together and hopefully that will be the case.”
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