France host Colombia in a vital friendly in Paris which could prove helpful in preparations for both sides ahead of the World Cup in Russia.

France host fellow World Cup participant and South American powerhouse, Colombia with both teams looking to start their preparations for Russia with a bang. This match, although only a friendly, could be a stern test for both sides as well as an experiment to choose the best style and players for the World Cup.

In reaching the Euro 2016 Final, France made a statement of intent to the rest of the world. It’s about time this group matures into winners and accordingly make each match they play till the World Cup count, starting with this game against Colombia.

France, since that Final loss to Portugal, have steadied their ship to qualify for Russia 2018 with flying colours. Their opponents on Friday, Colombia had a different qualification journey, as the South Americans left it late to be eligible for the tournament right on the last match day.

Both teams have an impressive group of players to contend with. But as recent history and form suggest, it is France who could be considered as one of the favourites for the World Cup as well as this tie, but Colombia, as they showed in the last World Cup, are more than capable of being the dark horses.

Team News & Tactics

France

Didier Deschamps has a vast pool of talent to choose from for the upcoming friendlies, and in all probabilities, he could experiment with his squad as well as the formation and style France play with. There are concerns with Laurent Koscielny who was injured in Arsenal’s last game and Corentin Tolisso, who is yet to recover from an injury.

Deschamps will mainly be keen to rotate or experiment with his midfield and forward line. Young players like Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar have already proved their worth for the national side, but Deschamps will start the Colombia game with at least one of those above mentioned forwards.

Otherwise, Antoine Greizmann is likely to start, as could Olivier Giroud. Recent Champions League hero for Sevilla, Wissam Ben Yeddar has also been called up to the side for the first time, and Deschamps could be tempted to give the diminutive striker his debut against Colombia.

In midfield, Deschamps has plenty of options with the likes of Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi and Adrain Rabiot all available. But Deschamps is in no rush to come up with the ultimate formula and will heavily rotate his side for the two friendlies.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lloris; Sidibe, Varane, Umtiti, Digne; Pogba, Kante, Matuidi; Griezmann, Mbappe, Giroud

Colombia

Like France, Colombia are expected to use these friendlies as a building ground towards getting the group together and experimenting with the squad at Jose Pekerman’s disposal. When it comes to this particular set of friendlies, Colombia does have a lot of first-team regulars mising.

Pekerman will likely be heavily using his regulars. Among these regulars, Juan Cuadrado and Edwin Cardono are both unavailable for the upcoming friendlies through respective injuries, which could result in James Rodriguez playing out wide instead of his preferred central position.

Davinson Sanchez has impressed this season with Tottenham and has seemingly established himself into the national team, but the real fight is for the other centre-back position which will be hotly contested by Yerry Mina and Cristian Zapata to become a regular ahead of the World Cup.

Pekerman is expected to start David Ospina in goal as well as Radamel Falcao in a central striking role. The absence of key players could also force Pekerman’s hand in changing formations and tactics against a lethal France side.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ospina; Arias, Zapata, D.Sanchez, Fabra; Uribe, C.Sanchez, Aguilar; Muriel, Rodriguez, Falcao

Key Stats

  • France and Colombia have not faced each other before in a competitive game.
  • They have three friendlies between them, with France winning two of them and losing the other.
  • France are unbeaten in their last six games.
  • Colombia have only one victory in their previous six games.

Player To Watch

Paul Pogba

TOPSHOT - France's midfielder Paul Pogba controls the ball during a training session in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines, southwest of Paris, on March 19, 2018, as part of the team's preparation for the friendly football matches against Colombia and Russia. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Paul Pogba after all the recent struggles and dip in form endured with Manchester United will be hoping to shine again with some impressive displays in French colours against Colombia and Russia in upcoming friendlies. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

Pogba has endured a stressful few weeks with Manchester United as Jose Mourinho has dropped the star midfielder sometimes for crucial games. There are suggestions of multiple problems between the Portuguese and the Frenchman, but irrespective of that, Pogba’s visible dip in form is another primary concern for the French.

Deschamps has verbally shown total faith in Pogba and has urged the midfielder to leave those problems behind and shine on the pitch for his national team. Pogba is expected to showcase why he is so important for France and their hopes at the World Cup.

The game against Colombia, as well as the next match against Russia, represents an excellent opportunity for the midfielder to get back some lost form and re-establish himself among the world’s elite players.

Prediction

France 2-1 Colombia

France are clear favourites to win this particular friendly against Colombia. The French have the quality up front to attack any side in the world, but it’s their balance in defence and midfield which gives them an edge over most teams and Colombia are not expected to stand in their way.

It’s not that Colombia does not have the right side, they do, but when looked at the overall quality, the French take this game on paper. The main problem with the Colombians is the absence of key players who are likely to make a big difference in games like this, although the South Americans are expected to give a good fight.

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