France conclude their September international break on Tuesday, as they host Finland in the final of their three World Cup qualifiers this month.
Les Bleus are in dire need of a positive result as pressure mounts of Didier Deschamps following five games without a win – a run that spans back to their embarrassing Euro 2020 performance in which they exited the competition at the round of 16 stage. The reigning World Cup champions have most recently drawn 1-1 with Bosnia and Herzegovina and followed that up with the same scoreline against Ukraine.
They remain at the summit of Group D with nine points, although now face a Finland side who can overtake them should they avoid defeat on Tuesday and win both of their games in hand. Out of their three qualifiers thus far, the Fins have won once and drawn twice and can go to France in high hopes, having shocked Les Bleus to win 2-0 at the Stade de France last November.
Here’s 90min’s preview of the game.
When is kick off? Tuesday 7 September, 19:45 (BST)
Where is it being played? Groupama Stadium, Lyon
What TV channel is it on? Sky Sports Red Button (UK), ESPN/TUDN (US)
Who’s the referee? Deniz Aytekin
Who’s on VAR duty? Christian Dingert
Deschamps will be without Kylian Mbappe, who withdrew ahead of the match against Ukraine with injury, following Dayot Upamecano, N’Golo Kante and Corentin Tolisso to do so.
There was some rotation for that draw with Andriy Shevchenko’s side, so we should see the likes of
Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane resume their places in the starting XI, while Aurelien Tchouameni is facing a late fitness test after picking up a knock late in the last game.
Nordi Mukiele and Matteo Guendouzi earned places in Deschamps’ squad following Mbappe’s withdrawal and Jules Kounde’s suspension, although neither are expected to force their way into the first XI.
Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara missed his nation’s 1-0 win over Kazakhstan on Saturday through suspension, although has now served his time and is in line to return to the side.
Teemu Pukki will also continue in a two-man strike force, now needing just three goals to become Finland’s all-time leading goalscorer.
France: Lloris; Dubois, Varane, Kimpembe, Digne; Pogba, Tchouameni, Rabiot; Griezmann, Benzema, Coman
Finland: Hradecky; Vaisanen, Arajuuri, O’Shaughnessey; Alho, Valakari, Kamara, Taylor, Uronen; Pohjanpalo, Pukki
The head-to-head record doesn’t make great reading for Finland and, once again, France will head into the meeting as firm favourites having beaten Wednesday’s opposition eight times in nine attempts.
However, the Fins’ sole victory against Les Bleus was the aforementioned shock result last November, overcoming the world champions with a perfectly executed performance to win 2-0 – so anything can happen.
Things are rocky for Deschamps at the moment, and the France boss will be desperate to move on from this horrid run of form as soon as possible. No time would be better than against their closest challengers in Group D.
Of course, Finland won’t be easy opposition; they know how to frustrate teams and can see out a game plan to pick up points. Oh, and they already know how to beat France.
However, with the quality on show and the necessity for a result in the context of their World Cup qualification group, there really is no excuse for Les Bleus not to end this run of five games without a win on Tuesday.
Prediction: France 2-1 Finland