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'There's only one Kylian Mbappe' – Saka laughs off comparisons with 2018 breakout star

By Harry Carr

Doha, December 5: Bukayo Saka rejected comparisons between his form at the 2022 World Cup and Kylian Mbappe's breakout campaign four years ago ahead of England's meeting with France.

Saka scored his third World Cup goal as England overcame a nervous start to beat Senegal 3-0 in Sunday's last-16 tie, setting up a heavyweight quarter-final clash with Les Bleus.

Having started three of England's four games in Qatar from the right, Saka may be expected to help contain Mbappe next time out, which promises to be a difficult task after the Paris Saint-Germain star moved onto five goals for the tournament in his side's 3-1 win over Poland.

Mbappe joined Pele as just the second teenager to score in a World Cup final in 2018, and Saka does not wish to compare his own debut campaign with that of the Frenchman.

Asked whether he could follow in Mbappe's footsteps by being named young player of the tournament, Saka said: "Thank you for the compliment, but there's only one Kylian Mbappe.

"At the same time, there's only one of me. I just want to be myself and help my team in the best way I can.

"There are many young players in this tournament, I can name so many.

"Even in our team, alongside me there's another young player doing unbelievably well in Jude Bellingham. I'm just happy that we're all here and doing well.

"The priority is to try to win the tournament, rather than to be the player of the tournament or young player of the tournament."

Asked about Bellingham's displays in the England midfield, Saka added: "He's a special player. I don't really know the words to describe him.

"I just hope he can continue to keep progressing because, for sure, he has a massive, massive future."

Saka's previous major tournament campaign ended with him missing the decisive penalty in England's Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, but the Arsenal winger believes his World Cup displays have gone some way to helping him banish that memory.

"Personally, I feel like I've tried to move on from that moment," Saka said. "I know I can never really forget about it, it's going to be history, but at the same time, coming out here and scoring those three goals has lifted me a lot.

"And of course, 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 it."

With the prospect of taking part in another penalty shoot-out if the France match is a tight one, Saka insisted he would have no qualms about stepping up once again.

"I have matured and progressed a lot since that moment - I wouldn't have stepped up the number of times I have for Arsenal if I was not confident," he said.

"If the moment comes and I am selected to take it, I will be more than happy to."

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Story first published: Monday, December 5, 2022, 23:21 [IST]
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