France will look to clinch their place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they host Belarus at Stade De France on Tuesday.
Just one round remains for all the final of the automatic qualifiers from Europe to be decided. In Group A, France can book their ticket for Russia 2018 with a win on Tuesday, when they play hosts to Belarus at Stade De France.
The hosts currently sit atop Group A, with 20 points, but haven’t been entirely convincing in their campaign thus far, suffering a shock loss to Sweden while also being held to a draw by Luxembourg. They come into this match on the back of a crucial win though, beating Bulgaria 1-0 on Saturday.
Belarus, on the other hand, are joint-bottom in Group B with five points, ahead of Luxembourg solely due to goal difference. A 2-1 win over Bulgaria has been the only success in their campaign, but they come into the match on the back of three game losing run, including a 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands last time out.
The reverse fixture, earlier in the campaign, ended in shock 0-0 draw as Belarus held France to a frustrating result. Ahead of their latest meeting on Tuesday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Didier Deschamps’ problems in midfield have been compounded, with N’Golo Kante picking up a major hamstring injury in the match against Bulgaria. The Chelsea man has joined Paul Pogba on the sidelines, and will only be available for the friendlies in March, at the earliest.
In the absence of Kante, Adrien Rabiot is expected to be deployed at the heart of midfield, while Blaise Matuidi is likely to keep his place after scoring the winner last time out. Apart from the aforementioned change, Deschamps is expected to start with his strongest possible side with qualification still not assured.
Therefore, the front trio of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Alexandre Lacazette should continue in attack, although Olivier Giroud is in contention to start in place of his Arsenal teammate. The defensive unit more or less picks itself, while Hugo Lloris will lead the side.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lloris; Sidibe, Varane, Umtiti, Digne; Matuidi, Rabiot, Tolisso; Griezmann, Lacazette, Mbappe
Unlike his counterpart, Igor Kriushenko does not have any fresh injury concerns to deal with, but he does have a few other roster issues on his hands. The Belarus boss, in fact, will be without the services of three key first-team players who will miss the match due to their respective suspensions.
Aleksei Rios, Nikolai Signevich and Sergei Balanovich were all booked against the Netherlands on Saturday, and they will serve one-match bans on Tuesday. The trio is expected to be replaced by Igor Burko, Anton Saroka and Artem Bykov respectively.
Other than the three changes, Kriushenko is likely to persist with the same team that lost to their Dutch opposition on Saturday, deploying a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders, Ivan Maevski and Stanislav Dragun expected to hold the fort in the middle of the park to frustrate the hosts.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Chernik; Burko, Politevich, Yanushkevich, Volodko; Maevski, Dragun; Bykov, Karnitski, Stasevich; Saroka
- The two sides have previously met five times, but France surprisingly do not boast a strong record against the visitors, having won just twice (D2 L1).
- Belarus are in a miserable run of form, having lost seven of their last ten international fixtures.
- Belarus haven’t managed to shut the floodgates on the road either, having conceded 10 goals in four away fixtures.
- France, on the other hand, have a formidable record at home, unbeaten in their last six qualifiers in their country (W5 D1).
- France are assured a playoff place at worst, although they would seal their place in next summer’s World Cup with a win.
Player To Watch
Lacazette has enjoyed a strong start to life as an Arsenal player, taking no time to establish himself as the first-choice striker in Arsene Wenger’s squad. But while he has been ahead in the pecking order at the North London club, it’s Olivier Giroud who has enjoyed his manager’s faith at the international level.
However, Lacazette is expected to feature for the second time in a row ahead of Giroud for Les Bleus on Tuesday, and a solid outing could help him go a long way for his national side, where he has largely been a backup option.
A strong performance by Lacazette will provide Didier Deschamps with a lot to ponder, with Giroud having performed admirably for France as well on previous occasions.
France 2-0 Belarus
France haven’t exactly been as formidable as they were expected to be in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, with a few shock results in their nine previous games. However, they do arrive into the last matchday in a good position, atop Group A and with automatic qualification still in their own hands.
With a struggling Belarus side visiting, the hosts should have little trouble getting past the minnows on Tuesday, especially with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe providing the required quality. The Hard Tackle, therefore, predicts a 2-0 win for the hosts to book their ticket for Russia 2018.