France kick off their European Championships 2020 qualification campaign with a trip to Moldova in hopes of a winning start to their journey.
France’s inability to win their division in the UEFA Nations League makes the European Championships 2020 qualification stage that much more important for the World Cup winners. They were equal with Netherlands on 7 points, who topped League A Group 1 based off a greater goal difference.
Moldova, on the other hand, will be looking for improvement on a forgetful UEFA Euro 2016 qualification campaign, wherein they failed to register a single win and finished the campaign with just two points beside their name. Their journey in League D Group 2 wasn’t as fruitful either, with Belarus topping their division and Moldova ending with just 2 wins out of their 6 games.
One major thing to take away from Moldova’s UEFA Nations League D campaign was their defensive astuteness. The nation leaked just 5 goals in a total of 6 matches and will be hoping the trend continues into the UEFA European Championships 2020 qualification process.
The two teams have never met before in a competitive setting and it will be interesting to see how the game unfolds at the Zimbru Stadium on Friday. We now take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Alexandru Spiridon experimented with a 4-4-2 formation in their only match in 2019, a friendly against Kazakhstan. But, the manager is likely to reinstate the 4-2-3-1 shape against France.
Spiridon also seems to be phasing veterans out of the squad, with the likes of Petru Racu, Igor Armas, Alexandru Gatcan and Andrej Cojocari not called up for the initial matches of the Euro 2020 Qualifiers.
Stanislav Namasco should still continue between the sticks for Moldova. Captain Alexandru Epureanu is one of the veterans that seems like he is being used to groom the youngsters coming into the squad. But, the Istanbul Basaksehir star is reportedly injured and is unlikely to feature against France.
Ion Jardan will be stationed on the right side of the back four, with Oleg Reabciuk on the left, with the star the only natural left-back called up to the squad. Veaceslav Posmac is one of the main pillars in the back four and if Epureanu does not start, his spot should be taken up by 20-year-old Artur Craciun.
Artur Ionita and Catalin Carp should be the designated pivot pairing in defensive midfield. Alexandru Antoniuc is likely to be on the right, with Eugeniu Cociuc playing the number 10 role and Constantin Sandu on the left.
Vitalie Damascan should lead the Moldova front-line. The Torino youngster has been in good touch while on loan at Sheriff Tiraspol and it will be interesting to see how he fares against the elite French backline.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): Namasco; Jardan, Posmac, Craciun, Reabciuk; Ionita, Carp; Antoniuc, Cociuc, Sandu; Damascan
Didier Deschamps will retain the 4-2-3-1 formation that has brought France so much success under the manager. France haven’t exactly set the stage alight after their World Cup win and Deschamps will make sure the Moldova game serves as a statement of intent from France.
Hugo Lloris should start in goal, with a formidable back four of Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne in front of him. Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante will reprise their partnership in the pivot in midfield.
Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are certain to start behind the striker, a role that will be filled up by Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud. With the likes of Anthony Martial, Ousmane Dembele and Dmitri Payet missing out for one reason or another, the left flank will be filled up by Thomas Lemar, who will be eager to cement his place in the side.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Digne; Kante, Pogba; Mbappe, Griezmann, Lemar; Giroud
1. Moldova have conceded just twice in their last six games.
2. In the post-World Cup scenario, France have failed to score twice in four games (0-0 vs Germany and 0-2 vs Netherlands)
3. France did not have to go through the qualification phase for Euro 2016, having automatically qualified as the hosts of the event, something which has now been lifted, with the hosts no more earning automatic qualification to the finals.
4. Olivier Giroud can go level with David Trezeguet (34 goals) or even surpass the former star, should he score a goal or more against Moldova.
5. Hugo Lloris can cross Zinedine Zidane (108 caps) on the all-time capped list for France.
Player to Watch
Much has been made of Giroud’s contribution to France’s World Cup triumph in Russia. The Frenchman failed to score a single goal, despite featuring in every game and starting in all but one. While goals are not the perfect parameter to gauge Giroud’s importance in the side, he proved in the aftermath of the World Cup win that he can contribute when it matters.
A goal in the 2-1 win over Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League and the winner in the friendly win over Uruguay has silenced critics to some extent. But, with the striker now 32 and about to be 33 later this year, there will talk of him being phased out of the squad.
For now, Giroud must keep performing to keep his place and Moldova might be the ones on the receiving end.
Moldova 0-4 France
France need to send out a statement; fire a warning shot to their rivals that their post-World Cup slumber was just temporary and that they are still the favourites for the Euro 2020 title. Didier Deschamps’ tactics also provide the players with a bit of freedom to express themselves and that is likely to show against Moldova on Friday.
We can expect fireworks at the Zimbru Stadium. We are going with a big victory for France.