Bukayo Saka in cute response after Arsenal star names France players he most admires ahead of England clash

Bukayo Saka playing darts, England media day, World Cup 2022 preview St George's Park

England star Bukayo Saka offered a chilling answer to a question about his favourite France player when asked about the Three Lions’ World Cup quarter-final showdown with the reigning champions on Saturday.

Gareth Southgate’s side have breezed their way into the last eight of the competition, proving the tournament’s joint-top scorers on the way. Indeed, their 12 goals from four games has only been matched by Portugal, who may lie in wait in the semi-finals.

Before England can get to that stage, however, they have the small matter of much-fancied France first. Didier Deschamps’ side won the trophy four years ago and have also impressed this time around in reaching the last four.

Their meeting at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar is arguably the pick of the quarter-finals. And in the build-up to the game, French newspaper L’Equipe is urging France to target a Three Lions star they feel is England’s weak link.

England players and coaches, and hopefully the media, are taking a more pragmatic approach. France have obvious quality right throughout their squad, with star man Kylian Mbappe coming to the fore with five goals.

And while talk that he may miss out with injury has been played down, he is just one of several French stars who can hurt them.

Perhaps surprisingly, Saka did not name Mbappe when asked which French players he most admires. And in a clever nod to Arsenal, Gunners winger Saka was quick to pick out an Emirates teammate.

“I like William Saliba!” he answered quickly before adding: “No, of course, they have so many players. I could name a few.

“I also like Ousmane Dembele, I think he is really good. They have so many quality players so we have to be ready for all of them in their own way.”

Arsenal star tips cap to French connection

It’s little surprise Saka chose Saliba when naming his favourite France star. And while Saliba has been limited to just one appearance so far at the World Cup – the 1-0 group stage defeat to Tunisia – his talents are sure to make him a star for Les Bleus for many years to come.

His arrival in summer 2019 was much-heralded, though the defender has had to wait until this season for his chance.

Discussing Arsenal’s long-standing French connection, Saka added: “One of my biggest regrets was that I haven’t met Arsene Wenger.

“I know how much my dad loves him, how much everyone at the club loves him. I know what he has done for the club, of course. We had so many other French players too, like Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, who have been around the club and helped me.

“Thierry called me [after missing the penalty in the Euro 2020 final]. He showed a lot of character to get my number and reach out to me. After most Arsenal games, he reaches out to me and he is still passionate about the club. He is an amazing person.

“They still support me to this day. I am grateful to them. Of course, on the pitch, they were magnificent and won silverware for Arsenal. They are legends.”

Saka love for William Saliba well known

Referring back to Saliba, Saka was asked just how good the 21-year-old defender can be.

“I can’t talk highly enough of William. He’s unbelievable. He’s got an amazing future.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how much he keeps developing and I wish him all the best. He’s such a good guy as well.

“I haven’t received any texts from him (before Saturday) and I’m not sure I will either. Let’s see.”

While Saliba looks an unlikely starter for France on Saturday, he represents a quality option for them to fall back on if needed.

Saka too, though, will be hoping his own brilliance comes to the fore.

Having scored three goals for England at the World Cup already, a fourth in the quarter-finals, would be more than welcome.

The winners of Saturday’s match will face a last-four showndown with either Portugal or Morocco for a place in the World Cup final.

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