France will be looking to book their place in next summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 when they lock horns with Group H bottom feeders Moldova on Thursday.
Reigning world champions France will be hoping to secure their place in the UEFA Euro 2020 when they play hosts to minnows Moldova at Stade de France in a Group H tie on Thursday night.
Didier Deschamps’ men are currently second in Group H, having collected 19 points from their 8 games till date. They are in need of a win from their remaining two matches to qualify for next summer’s blockbuster event and will be keen on wrapping things up on Thursday. Last time out, Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw by group leaders Turkey and they will want to bounce back strongly.
Moldova are rooted to the bottom of the standings, with just three points in their qualifying campaign till date, courtesy a 1-0 win against Andorra back in September. Since then however, they have lost each of their five fixtures, with their most recent game ending in a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Albania. While a win against the world champions is a distant possibility, Moldova will want to at least put up a fight.
The reverse fixture, back in March earlier this year, ended in a 4-1 win for France. And ahead of the latest Group H encounter, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Paul Pogba is one of the many regulars missing from the France squad, along with first-choice keeper Hugo Lloris, versatile defender Lucas Hernandez and Blaise Matuidi. N’Golo Kante has been included in the squad after he returned to full fitness this past week, but may not be involved from the get-go on Thursday.
In Lloris’ absence Steve Mandanda ought to continue to deputise between the sticks, with Deschamps likely to hold off on giving Mike Maignan his senior debut until qualification is sealed. Raphael Varane and Clement Lenglet should pair up at the heart of the defence, with Benjamin Pavard starting at right-back. Lucas Digne is likely to get the nod at left-back ahead of Benjamin Mendy.
Corentin Tolisso should take up one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park on Thursday. The second spot will be a toss-up between Kante and the Tottenham duo of Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele, while Matteo Guendouzi is also an option. However, Ndombele is likely to feature from kick-off against Moldova.
Antoine Griezmann will be looking to rediscover his form, having struggled at club level this season. He should start as the No. 10 for France, flanked by the exciting Kylian Mbappe on the right and Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman on the left, with Thomas Lemar as backup.
Olivier Giroud has been Deschamps’ preferred striker, but given that he has hardly played of late for Chelsea and Wissam Ben Yedder has been in impressive form, the latter might get the nod against Moldova on Thursday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mandanda; Pavard, Varane, Lenglet, Digne; Ndombele, Tolisso; Mbappe, Griezmann, Coman; Ben Yedder
Moldova manager Engin Firat will have to make do without the services of seasoned campaigner Alexandru Epureanu, while Vladimir Ambros has had to pull out of the squad due to an injury. Uncapped forward Virgiliu Postolachi is another player who has withdrawn from the squad ahead of the game.
The visitors are likely to set up in a 5-4-1 formation and look to defend deep against the world champions. 25-year-old Alexei Koselev is likely to be in for a busy outing in goal for Moldova and will need all the protection he can get from his defence which should comprise of Dinu Graur and Oleg Reabciuk as the full-backs with Veaceslav Posmac, Igor Armas and Sergiu Platica being the centre-backs.
Catalin Carp and Eugeniu Cociuc are likely to start in the middle of the park and look to provide added protection to the backline, while any forward threat is likely to come from the wide players Radu Ginsari and Artur Ionita. 30-year old Eugen Sidorenco is expected to spearhead the attack for Moldova against France.
Probable Lineup (5-4-1): Koselev; Graur, Platica, Posmac, Armas, Reabciuk; Ginsari, Carp, Cociuc, Ionita; Sidorenco
- This will only be the second time that France and Moldova face off against each other. The first encounter between the two nations in March ended in a thumping 4-1 win for Les Bleus.
- Since a 2-0 defeat to Turkey in June, France are on a five-match unbeaten run, winning four of those games. In this run, the world champions have conceded just two goals while scoring 13 themselves.
- Moldova are on a five-game losing streak since defeating Andorra back in June earlier this year. In this run, the Eastern European nation has conceded as many as 14 goals, without scoring even once.
- France’s goalscoring tally of 21 from eight matches in the qualifiers is the fifth-highest behind Belgium (30), Russia (27), England (26) and Italy (25).
- Moldova’s goal difference of -20 is the fourth-worst in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers. Only San Marino (-43), Latvia (-25) and Liechtenstein (-23) boast a worse goal difference than Moldova.
Player to Watch
It has been a season filled with struggle for the Frenchman, who has found it difficult to get going at his new club Barcelona after a high-profile, big-money move from Atletico Madrid in the summer. Naturally, Griezmann has been under a lot of pressure and appears to have lost his confidence, based on his recent performances for the Catalans.
The international break, however, offers him with an opportunity to get back into his groove. Griezmann is much more familiar with Didier Deschamps’ tactics, who also knows how to get the best out of his star attacker. The game against a porous Moldova defence should be a great chance for the Barcelona superstar to rediscover his best form.
France 4-0 Moldova
France will be eager to book their place in next summer’s main event, whereas Moldova have already been eliminated and will only be playing for pride. However, there is no denying the gulf of class between the two teams and that is likely to show again when these two sides meet on Thursday.
Didier Deschamps’ men boast one of the most dangerous attacking units in the competition, while their opponents are among the worst defensive sides. And while Moldova will try and make life difficult for France by sitting deep, the hosts should be able to find their way through and romp home to a big win that will confirm their berth in the UEFA Euro 2020.