France will look to build upon their win over Moldova and make it two wins out of two in the UEFA European Championships 2020 Qualifiers when they meet Iceland.
A thumping 4-1 win over Moldova was perhaps a near-perfect start to the European Championships 2020 qualification phase for France. Didier Deschamps would have been happier with a clean sheet, but he will be pleased to see all his mega stars in form. Stationed in Group H alongside strong teams like Iceland, Turkey and Albania, Deschamps will be aware he needs his stars in top form to avoid any lapses in their campaign.
Speaking of strong teams in Group H, Iceland would have been disappointed with their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign, wherein they failed to register a single win and bowed out of the Group Stage. But, the Nordic nation will be eager to work on it, with the ensuing European Championships 2020 Qualifiers, with the players having the sweet recent memory of having reached the Quarter-Finals of the 2016 edition.
Both France and Iceland have kicked their Group H campaign off with a win and will be eager to get an early advantage over the other in the race to finish top of the group. Their last encounter was a friendly in a 2-2 draw, but France did beat Iceland 5-2 in the Quarter-Finals of the 2016 European Championships, their last meeting in a competitive setting.
We now take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Lucas Digne had to withdraw from the squad through injury, which means Layvin Kurzawa should continue on the left side of the back four. Ideally, the entire starting eleven will be retained by Didier Deschamps, with the uncanny preference of Blaise Matuidi as part of the three men behind striker Olivier Giroud.
Despite not recording a clean sheet, the back four is unlikely to see any changes and neither should we see Hugo Lloris being rested against Iceland.
Matuidi’s involvement makes the shape a hybrid 4-3-2-1, with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe more advanced than Matuidi, who acts more like a ball-winning midfielder, albeit in an area more forward compared to a natural central midfielder.
The chemistry between the squad looked good against Moldova, especially between Paul Pogba and Griezmann, evidenced by the brilliant assist from the former for the latter’s goal.
Predicted Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Kurzawa; Kante, Pogba; Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi; Giroud
Aron Gunnarsson picked up a knock against Andorra and is a doubt. The Iceland captain’s absence could be a huge blow to their chances against France.
While Vidar Kjartansson staked a claim to start upfront instead of Alfred Finnbogason, the latter will likely retain his place, with the only change expected to be Runar Mar Sigurjonsson coming in for the injured Gunnarsson, should the Icelandic captain be unable to make it.
The onus will be on Hannes Halldorsson, who has created a rapport for bailing Iceland out of troubles with brilliant saves. Birkir Bjarnason and Gylfi Sigurdsson will be in charge of supporting Finnbogason in attack, who himself will be looking to prevent France from recording a clean sheet for another match.
Predicted Lineup (4-4-1-1): Halldorsson; Saevarsson, Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Sigurjonsson, Bjarnason, Arnor Sigurdsson; Gylfi Sigurdsson; Finnbogason
1. Iceland have scored exactly 2 goals in the 3 matches between them and France.
2. France and Iceland have met each other in competitions just once, with France winning 5-2 in the Quarter-Finals of the UEFA Euro 2016.
3. Birkir Mar Saevarsson can go solo on second on the list of most capped Iceland players with a start against France.
4. Kylian Mbappe has 10 goals and an assist in his last 9 matches in all competitions at club level and international games combined.
5. Alfred Finnbogason has scored in just one game out of his last 10 appearances for club and nation combined, although the one time he did was a hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Mainz.
Player to Watch
Finnbogason shot to fame for Iceland with his goal against Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But, injuries have restricted him from being that much of a regular for the national team. The 30-year-old is having a more than decent domestic season, with 10 goals and 2 assists in the league in just 15 appearances.
While Finnbogason failed to score against Andorra, his domestic form is likely to make him retain his place upfront. But, Kjartansson is breathing down his neck and Finnbogason will need a good performance against France to cement his position once again.
France 2-1 Iceland
Iceland will be much more of a test than Moldova were. France did look shaky defensively, to an extent and Iceland would have taken a look at any potential weaknesses present in the French back four. The World Cup winners though, are equipped with an attack that can overcome any situation and that is likely to be the same against Iceland.
Expect France to fail in their mission to record a clean sheet but to somehow eke out a narrow win over the Icelandic nation, who are unlikely to be able to fill the void left by the absence of their captain Aron Gunnarsson.