Macron baits Sunak ahead of England France World Cup game

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By Euronews  with AFP
England's Marcus Rashford in action during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between England and Senegal, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022.
England's Marcus Rashford in action during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between England and Senegal, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022.   -   Copyright  Abbie Parr/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Leaders of France and the UK have had a cheeky war of words ahead of the two country's World Cup game on Saturday night. 

French President Emmanuel Macron fired the first shot on Twitter Saturday afternoon, asking his British counterpart if he would wish Les Blues luck in the semi-final if they won. 

UK PM Rishi Sunak replied: "Hopefully I won't have to. But you've got a deal". 

"Look forward to you getting behind the Three Lions in the next round," he added, tweeting a wink face and George Cross emoji.  

Reigning World Cup champion France will play England in what looks set to be a closely-fought quarter-final on Saturday. 

One of the two European squads is hoping to join Croatia and Argentina in the last four of the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar. 

France's press struck a confrontational tone, with the front page of Le Parisian reading "Royal shock" and Marseille's La Provence declaring the French side had a "crown to defend". 

Across the channel, there was similar sabre-rattling. 

"There will be respect, but it will be war," warned former England international captain and ex-Chelsea player John Terry, predicting "a long game", likening it to a "game of chess".

He said the match would be a "real test" between the neighbours, who share a rich, if not at times fractious, common history.  

The Three Lions and the Blues will kick off at 20:00 CET in al-Khor, north of Doha, with the winner facing either Morocco-Portugal who will play at 16:00 CET. 

A victory for France would make it possible to reach the minimum objective set by the French Football Federation (FFF), in addition to probably ensuring an extension for the coach Didier Deschamps.  

It would also be a strong message: since Brazil in 1998, no defending champion has managed to reach the semi-finals of the next World Cup.

England will be dominant in the stands, with 8,000 English supporters expected against 4,000 French, according to figures provided by the FFF. 

There will be 65,000 spectators in all, it added. 

On the ground, however, it is difficult to predict who is the favourite, with both teams relatively well-matched. 

For the English, public enemy N.1 is Kylian Mbappé, top scorer of the tournament with five achievements in four matches, capable of dazzling and devastating accelerations.

"If there's anyone who can stop Mbappé, it's Kyle Walker," John Terry told reporters.

The Manchester City player has already muzzled the PSG striker in the Champions League, "he is undoubtedly the fastest player in the Premier League" and, "defensively, he is very, very strong".

The Chelsea legend, however, had "one concern" which was that too much attention was paid to this "duel", forgetting Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and the "other forces" under the tricolour.

England are not short of ammunition either with Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane, their chief artificer with 52 goals on the clock, as much as Giroud, the French record holder, but one less than the Englishman Wayne Rooney.