France will look to overtake Turkey at the top of the Group H standings as they lock horns with Iceland in Reykjavik on Friday.
France will have a must-win game on their hands when they travel to Reykjavik on Friday to face Iceland in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers. The world champions are trailing Turkey in the Group H standings, thanks to an inferior head to head record.
That means securing all three points could be necessary if they are to claim the top spot. But, at the same time, they will also hope that Turkey fall to Albania in the other fixture. Les Bleus are, however, coming on the back of wins against Andorra and Albania in their last two matches and will be full of confidence going into this game.
Iceland, meanwhile, are also challenging for the top two places that are up for grabs. And holding France to a draw at home this week could put them in a position where they could stretch the table till the final matchday. But, a win will nicely shape the balance of this group and put France in real danger of potentially losing out on the second place.
Therefore, this promises to be one of the most important matches in this week’s round of fixture, in the Euro 2020 qualifying stages. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at the two sides as they go head to head on Friday evening.
Tactics & Team News
Iceland coach Erik Hamren has been dealt with a huge blow as star midfielder Aron Gunnarson has been ruled out with an injury. His absence means Gylfi Sigurdsson will play in a deeper midfield role, trying to provide additional cover for Birkir Bjarnason and Runar Mar Sigurjonsson.
Nonetheless, Iceland are likely to employ a deep defensive block in an attempt to keep the mighty French attack at bay. The central defensive duo of Kari Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson will sit deep and will be supported by the two full-backs, Ari Freyr Skulason and Hjortur Hermannsson.
It will be interesting to see how France manage to evade Iceland’s second line of press as their midfielders are extremely athletic. The hosts are also known for their ability to remain compact and organised, making it difficult for the opposition to create passing channels in between the lines.
Meanwhile, in attack, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is tipped to start ahead of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, having already netted three goals in the qualifying stages. Coach Hamren will soon have Alfred Finnbogason back in contention.
Elsewhere, Sigthorsson will be supported by the wide duo of Johann Gudmundsson and Arnor Igvir Traustason, though they are likely to operate in a deeper role.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Halldorsson; Hermannsson, Arnason, Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Bjarnason, Sigurjonsson, Traustason; Sigurdsson; Sigthorsson
Didier Deschamps will continue to miss out on the services of Kylian Mbappe this week, while Hugo Lloris has been ruled out with a dislocated elbow. The Tottenham goalkeeper’s absence will pave the way for second choice Alphonso Areola to start in between the sticks.
Deschamps will have to make another forced changed in defence, with Leo Dubois injured. That means Benjamin Pavard will return to the starting lineup, with Lucas Digne starting on the opposite flank. The central defensive pairing will comprise of Raphael Varane and Clement Lenglet.
In midfield, the return of N’Golo Kante will be a massive boost for Les Blues this week. The Chelsea man is likely to get a berth in the starting lineup, at the expense of Moussa Sissoko. Kante will be partnered by Corentin Tolisso, who is still a valued member of the Bayern Munich midfield.
And finally, in attack, the absence of Mbappe means Olivier Giroud is once again in contention to lead the French attack. But, after starting the last game, the Chelsea star might settle for a place on the bench on this one. Alassane Plea is pushing for a start after helping Borussia Monchengladbach reach the top of the Bundesliga table.
He will be supported by the creative trio of Antoine Griezmann, Jonathan Ikone and Kingsley Coman. Thomas Lemar is also an option along with Wissam Ben Yedder.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Pavard, Varane, Lenglet, Digne; Kante, Tolisso; Ikone, Griezmann, Coman; Plea
- France have scored at least three goals in 5 of their last six matches.
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in Iceland‘s last three games.
- France have scored 11 goals in their last three matches – one more than what Iceland have managed in their six games.
- Only England and Belgium have managed to score as many goals as France (19) in the qualifying stages.
- France are yet to draw in any of their last ten international matches.
Player to Watch
With Kylian Mbappe once again ruled out with an injury, the onus will be on Griezmann to spearhead the French attack as they look to oust Iceland this week. Les Bleus have performed really well in front of goal, with the Barcelona star notably scoring two goals and registering five assists.
However, things could be tricky against an Iceland side who are known for their resilience at the back. That means Griezmann is bound to get isolated, and it is up to him to create space for himself, although a lot will depend on the quality of service he gets from his teammates.
Nonetheless, stopping Griezmann from making an impact will be the primary objective for the Iceland defenders this week.
Iceland 1-3 France
The French defence has looked vulnerable at times, which could allow Iceland to nick a goal or two. But, the visitors’ sheer brilliance in front of goal, despite the unavailability of Kylian Mbappe could prove too much for the Nordic giants. Hence, we expect a comprehensive 3-1 win for France.