Osman And Distin Preview England v France

This Saturday will see England and France clash in a blockbuster World Cup quarter-final at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, and two former Everton stars have given their thoughts on how they think the crucial contest could play out.   

Gareth Southgate's men saw off African champions Senegal on Sunday evening, while 2018 World Cup winners France made light work of Poland just hours earlier, setting up the first clash between both nations at a major tournament in more than a decade.     

Looking ahead to the crucial contest, former England international Leon Osman and French ex-Everton teammate Sylvain Distin have given their views on the performances of both teams in the tournament so far and made predictions on who they think will come out on top. 

Lean Osman: I've been impressed with England so far.  

We have been good to watch, it's been entertaining, and we've scored 12 goals in four games, which is amazing. Ten of those have been from open play.  

You'd have to go back to 2000s when Brazil did that, nobody has done it since.  

That shows the switch to the back four has given our front players and midfield players real freedom.

It's as if we have decided to embrace our strengths rather than cover our weaknesses, and the team have flourished because of it.  

Admittedly, France look strong, too. They've lost Karim Benzema, the current Ballon d'Or holder, yet they still look strong, which is a testament to their strength in depth.  

It helps, of course, that they have Kylian Mbappe who is arguably the best player in the world right now.  

In him, they've got that spark in terms of someone who can produce something really special.  

But they've also got Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann as well, players who can unlock and change the momentum of a game within a moment.  

It's an incredible squad that Didier Deschamps has got to utilise and I did expect them to get to the latter stages of the tournament.  

They, for me, were one of the top two teams coming into the competition, along with Brazil.  

But to win the World Cup, you have to beat at least one of them. France are our opponents on Saturday and we should not be overawed.  

In England we have a tendency to be concerned about the opposition, worrying and being a little negative at times.  

But I bet they're just as worried about our front six as we might be about theirs.  

We've got great talent in our team and just as much strength in depth.  

Leon Osman
Then of course, there's Jordan Pickford. He is a goalkeeper who seems to come alive on the big stage...

Beyond the obvious starting players, and even with Raheem Sterling, unfortunately, having to fly home, we've got the likes of Phil Foden, Buyako Saka, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford all to debate about.  

They all could be playing, and it's great that the manager has got these options.  

The manager knows he has Kyle Walker, too, one of the few people who could take on Mbappe due to his own strengths.  

We also have arguably the young player of the tournament in Jude Bellingham. 

His energy and enthusiasm both in defence and in attack has been brilliant.  He has been a real breath of fresh air and a driving force in the heart of the team. 

Then, of course, there's Jordan Pickford. He is a goalkeeper who seems to come alive on the big stage and he's very comfortable in an England shirt, whether it be with the ball at his feet or making saves. 

The two he made against Senegal were outstanding.  

France will be worried as much about us as we are about them. 

I've felt really enthusiastic throughout the competition and I have said before to England fans who said we are going to struggle, 'there's confidence about our team'. 

Therefore, despite the quality within Deschamps’ squad, I think we are going to win on Saturday and I am going with a 3-1 scoreline.  

Sylvain Distin: In my opinion, France have done just okay so far. 

I think they looked better against Poland, but before that, I would not say they were convincing.  

They have not been tested yet, either.  

Offensively, with Mbappe and Dembele, they have a lot of speed on both sides. 

There is also Olivier Giroud who will fight for every single ball. So, I think offensively they are really good. 

Defensively they have not been tested yet, so it's difficult to judge. We have seen some evidence that they don't seem as sound at the back as they do in attack.  

In midfield, you could argue they look a little light as well.  

Therefore, I think Saturday's match is going to very much depend on how England approach the game.  

If England sit back, then I think they will be in trouble. But if they decide to go for it, push forward and attack the game, then I think France could be in big trouble.  

Overall, I like what I have seen from Gareth Southgate's side. You can feel it's a team, I like that the most.  

They don't rely on individuals alone, which is possibly one of France's downsides. If you take Mbappe out, the team is not exciting anymore.  

Everyone talks about Mbappe, but I don't really see a wider team cohesion yet, which is something I can see in the England side.  

They are a strong unit that also boast quality. 

Their goals can come from anywhere. They get goals from their forwards, midfield, left and right, so I do wonder if France may be more cautious.  

France have been quite attacking in the tournament so far, but that could change against England because they are so strong going forward. Even on the bench, it's mad.  

In my opinion, they probably won't. I think they will still try to go for it by aiming to play the same kind of game they have been playing throughout the tournament.  

Within the first 15-20 minutes, though, if they realise England are doing the same, then they might try to sit back a little bit more and play on the counter. It's tough to know for sure.

As a Frenchman, I will still obviously back France to go and get the win on Saturday.  

But that's my heart talking. If I talk as a neutral football fan, I really do not know.  

The problem for both teams is they have been a bit up and down. They've only been extremely convincing against teams that they are supposed to beat.  

We, therefore, don't truly know what to expect on the day.  

If both teams are playing good football, then we are going to see goals.  

On that basis, I am going for a 2-2 draw, with France coming out on top after the penalties.