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England fans praise Saka for laughing off comparisons with Mbappe ahead of World Cup 2022 clash against France

Ahead of England's quarter-final clash against defending champions France, Bukayo Saka has played down comparisons with Kylian Mbappe despite enhancing his rapidly growing reputation during the World Cup in Qatar.

football England fans praise Saka for laughing off comparisons with Mbappe ahead of World Cup 2022 clash against France snt
First Published Dec 6, 2022, 2:29 AM IST

Even though the World Cup 2022 in Qatar helped Bukayo Saka solidify his fast-expanding profile, the England star has downplayed parallels to French sensation Kylian Mbappe.

The 21-year-old increased his tally to two goals from three games as England easily defeated Senegal 3-0 in the round of 16 to go to Saturday's tantalising quarter-final match with France.

Mbappe made his debut in Russia four years ago, taking home the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament award while scoring four goals to help France win the World Cup. The Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) star was only the second teenager to ever score in a World Cup final, following Pele.

Also read: Livakovic's heroics applauded as Croatia enter Qatar World Cup 2022 quarter-finals; Japan win hearts

Asked at a news conference on Monday if Saka felt he could make a similar impact at these finals, the Arsenal forward said: "Thank you for the compliment, but no. There's only one Kylian Mbappe.

"At the same time, there's only one me. I want to be myself and help the team in the best way I can. There are so many young players in the tournament, I can name so many. Even in our team, there's a young player who's doing unbelievably well in Jude Bellingham. I'm just happy we are all here and doing well. The priority is to win the tournament, not be player or young player of the tournament," Saka added.

The Arsenal winger made a promise to go up and take a penalty against France if necessary. Saka missed in the Euro 2020 final shootout loss to Italy at Wembley last summer, along with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, and the trio faced racial abuse online as a result.

Subsequently, then, Saka has continued to advance at Arsenal, where he has since become the team's official penalty-taker after converting kicks against Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool.

"I've matured and progressed a lot as a player and a person since that moment [against Italy]. I wouldn't have stepped up the times I have stepped up for Arsenal to take a penalty if I wasn't confident, so if the moment comes and I am selected to take it, I will be more than happy to," Saka said ahead of Saturday's high-octane clash at Al Bayt Stadium.

"To be honest, I feel like, personally, I've tried to move on from that moment. Obviously, I know I can never really forget about it. It is going to be in history. But at the same time, coming out here and scoring those three goals, of course, lifted me a lot. Like I keep saying, the love from the fans that I keep receiving lifts me a lot as well. It gives me a lot of confidence and I love to see that from the fans," the England star added.

With 12 goals, England leads the tournament in scoring, but they now face a tough challenge against the defending champions France, for whom Mbappe has already scored five goals in four games.

Also read: Can France win second World Cup title in a row? Former PSG boss Pochettino responds

"There's no doubt the quality we have in our team. We are blessed with an amazing front line. We have so many quality attacking players, and when you get selected in that lineup, it shows how much confidence and trust the coach puts in you, so it gives you that extra confidence to go out there and shine, and last night we were able to do that," Saka stated.

"I'm not a manager. I'm a player. I have to trust Gareth and our coaching staff to prepare the best game plan, but I think we can continue to do what we're doing. We've been playing well and scoring the most goals in the tournament, so I don't see us needing to change too much," the youngster concluded.

Fans of Saka took to Twitter to praise England forward for laughing off comparisons with Mbappe, with some users stating the player is mature for his age. "Shine omo. Let your magic shine... what a selfless response," said one supporter, while another added, "Wisdom from my boy, Atawewe."

Here's a look at some of the reactions:

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