World champions France will play hosts to fellow European nation Iceland in a friendly on Thursday night, ahead of their UEFA Nations League assignment.

France will go head to head against Iceland in a friendly contest at the Stade Municipal de Roudourou in Guingamp, on Thursday night.

This will be the third match that Les Bleus will be playing after having lifted the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia in July. Didier Deschamps’ men played out a goalless draw against Germany, before beating Netherlands 2-1 in the UEFA Nations League last month.

With another encounter against the Germans on the horizon, France will be aiming to build momentum ahead of the fixture a victory on Thursday.

Iceland may have crashed out of the World Cup at the group stages, but they had their moments as they held mighty Argentina to a 1-1 draw. However, it has been all downhill for the Nordic nation ever since as they have lost all of their following four fixtures and are without a win in their last eleven games.

Iceland were thrashed 6-0 by Switzerland, before being beaten 3-0 by Belgium in their UEFA Nations League assignments last month. New manager Erik Hamren, who was appointed after the World Cup, faces an uphill battle to turn things around.

Team News & Tactics

France

There are no major surprises in the squad selected by Deschamps for the upcoming matches, with almost all the regulars getting picked. Samuel Umtiti and Corentin Tolisso miss out with injuries, while Benjamin Mendy has been dropped. Midfielder Tanguy Ndombele has received his first ever call-up to the national team, while Mamadou Sakho, Kurt Zouma and Lucas Digne have been recalled after a long time.

Olympique Lyon captain Nabil Fekir has had to drop out from the squad due to an injury. Dimitri Payet has been called in as a replacement, with the former West Ham United man returning to the national team setup for the first time after missing out from the World Cup with an injury.

With the clash against Germany in mind, Deschamps might look to give some of his regulars a rest and give some of the fringe players a go in Guingamp this week.

PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola could start between the sticks in place of captain Hugo Lloris. At right-back Djibril Sidibe is in line to start in place of Benjamin Pavard, while Kurt Zouma is likely to feature in the heart of the defence, alongside Real Madrid star Raphael Varane. At left-back, Lucas Digne is set to get the nod ahead of World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez.

Ndombele should be making his international debut for Les Bleus on Thursday in all likelihood. Partnering him in the middle of the park will be Steven N’Zonzi, meaning both N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba won’t be starting, but are likely to get some minutes from the bench.

In the form that he is in, Kylian Mbappe is likely to be retained on the right-flank by the manager, while Florian Thauvin, who has been in brilliant form for Marseille could start in the No.10 role for the world champions, ahead of club teammate Payet. Atletico Madrid star Thomas Lemar will slot in on the left side, while Olivier Giroud is expected to spearhead the attack.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Areola; Sidibe, Varane, Zouma, Digne; Ndombele, N’Zonzi; Mbappe, Thauvin, Lemar; Giroud

Iceland

Experienced campaigner Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and captain Aron Gunnarsson have been ruled out for Iceland due to fitness issues. 21-year old Albert Gudmundsson has been called up, while 19-year old Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson has received his first ever call-up.

Hamren is likely to set his team up in a 4-4-1-1 setup against the World Cup winners, with Hannes Halldorsson starting in goal. He will be shielded by the back four comprising of Birkir Saevarsson and Hordur Magnusson as the full-backs, while Ragnar Sigurdsson and Sverrir Ingason will start in the heart of the defence.

Burnley star Johann Berg Gudmundsson is back in the squad after missing out due to injury last time out and should start on the right-side of the midfield. Aston Villa midfielder Birkir Bjarnason will start on the opposite flank, with 34-year old Emil Hallfredsson and Runar Sigurjonsson expected to partner up in the middle of the park to screen the defence.

The big boost for Hamren heading into the upcoming fixtures is the return to form of star man Gylfi Sigurdsson. The playmaker has been on a roll for Everton in recent weeks and will be hoping to carry that form on the international stages as well.

Alfred Finnbogason, who has scored four goals in two outings for FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga, should lead the line for Iceland on Thursday.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Halldorsson; Saevarsson, R. Sigurdsson, Ingason, Magnusson; Berg Gudmundsson, Sigurjonsson, Hallfredsson, Bjarnason; G. Sigurdsson; Finnbogason

Key Stats

  • France have never been beaten by Iceland. The two nations have clashed twelve times so far, with Les Bleus emerging victorious on nine occasions, while the other three games ended in draws.
  • In their twelve fixtures against Iceland, France have netted 35 goals, while conceding only ten times.
  • The world champions are currently on a 13-match unbeaten streak dating back to March earlier this year, when they were defeated in a friendly by Colombia.
  • Iceland, on the other hand, have been without a victory in their previous eleven games. Their last win came back in October last year – a 2-0 triumph over Kosovo.

Player to watch

Kylian Mbappe (France)

Talk of the town (Photo courtesy - Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Talk of the town (Photo courtesy – Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The 19-year old, having played a huge role in France’s World Cup triumph in the summer, has carried on in the same vein of form for his club Paris Saint-Germain. Mbappe, in the 2018-19 campaign so far, has already bagged 10 goals and set up four more in just seven appearances.

The teenage sensation will be coming into Thursday’s game fresh on the back of a terrific display against Lyon that saw him net four goals in the space of thirteen minutes. He will be relishing the opportunity of going up against an Iceland defence that has been leaking goals in plenty of late.

Prediction

France 4-1 Iceland

Iceland have certainly punched above their weight in the recent past, but they head into Thursday’s encounter on the back of some terrible results. They have shipped in 28 goals in their last eleven fixtures, conceding as many as nine in their previous two matches in the Nations League last month.

And France, despite the likelihood of resting some of their star players, has plenty of quality in their ranks to put Hamren’s side to the sword. As a result, we at The Hard Tackle predict a comfortable victory for the world champions in Guingamp.