England have been spying on France as special FA scout briefs players

France train ahead of the England game

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England have been spying on France for two years in the hope of having the edge in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.

As well as detailing senior coaches to do the background work on all three of the Three Lions Group B opponents in Qatar following the draw in March, others have been monitoring the world’s top teams over a longer period in anticipation of meeting them further into the tournament.

The FA head of coaching Tim Dittmer was selected to keep tabs on the defending world champions – tracking every game and every move by manager Didier Deschamps to try to unpick his innermost thoughts.

And within six hours of the players arriving back from their emphatic last 16 win against Senegal in the Al Bayt Stadium, Gareth Southgate’s squad were being briefed on what will await them back there on Saturday for the quarter-final.

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“We got back at 3am,” assistant manager Steve Holland revealed. “We went to bed.

“We were up this morning at 9am. We had a presentation to us from a member of the FA, one of the national coaches who’s been tracking France all the way throughout this tournament and for the last two years.

“So he’s an expert not just on what’s happened at this tournament, but the thinking of the manager with choices, selections, different types of opponent for the last two years.

“We started the morning after really getting up to speed specifically on the opponent.”

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Former goalkeeper Dittmer has been at the FA for eight years and worked previously at Manchester City as their goalkeeping coach.

Key to England’s chances on Saturday will be keeping the tournament’s top scorer Kylian Mbappe quiet. Holland even sees comparisons with the great Lionel Messi. “I think there are a handful of players on the planet that you need to consider special attention to,” Holland says.

“Messi has been one and probably still is. You’d have to put Mbappe in that kind of category I would suggest. We do need to look at trying to avoid leaving ourselves in situations where he is as devastating as we’ve all seen.

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