The 2018 World Cup finalists go head-to-head in the group stages of the UEFA Nations League as France welcome Croatia to Stade de France on Tuesday.
The UEFA Nations League 2020/21 is into its second round of fixtures, and world champions France are set to host Croatia at Stade de France in Paris on Tuesday night. This would be the first meeting between the two sides since the 2018 World Cup final, won rather convincingly by Les Bleus with the scoreline of 4-2.
The UEFA Nations Leagues started about two months after the World Cup final, and France were drawn with two heavyweights in the form of Netherlands and Germany. Both France and Netherlands won seven points from their four games, winning two and drawing once, but the Oranje were able to top the group on head-to-head criteria, courtesy of their 2-0 home win over France.
Croatia, too, were part of a robust group which had England and Spain in the mix. They were hammered by the latter 6-0 in their first game in the tournament – a game which featured six different goalscorers. Zlatko Dalic & co. were able to get revenge on Spain by defeating them 3-2 courtesy of a 93rd-minute winner by Tin Jedvaj, but it was their only win from the group as they finished rock bottom with four points.
Croatia were humbled 4-1 by Portugal in their last game – the first game of the second Nations League edition, and it could have been a lot worse if not for Dominik Livakovic. France were outplayed as well for the most part of their match against Sweden but escaped thanks to a goal by Kylian Mbappe in the 41st minute.
Team News & Tactics
There are no new concerns for Didier Deschamps, but France are without midfielders Paul Pogba and Tanguy Ndombele, who have missed out after testing positive for coronavirus. Houssem Aouar, who had earned his first call-up to the national team, has also endured the same fate.
We are expecting to see some changes in the starting XI for France, starting from the goalkeeping spot. Captain Hugo Lloris is likely to be benched for Mike Maignan, who was tremendous for Lille over the last two seasons, following which received his maiden call-up to the senior team and has also been linked with a move to Chelsea.
France lined up in a back-three last time out, but they are expected to revert back to their traditional four-man unit against Croatia, with Clement Lenglet and Raphael Varane holding on to the spots at the heart of the defence. Flanking them, should be Lucas Hernandez at left-back and Leo Dubois at right-back.
The midfield duo of N’Golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot played through the ninety minutes against Sweden and are likely to be replaced, with Eduardo Camavinga tipped to make his senior debut at the age of 17. Alongside him, we could see Steven Nzonzi in a more traditional defensive midfield role.
Finally, in attack, Antoine Greizmann is expected to retain his spot in the hole, with Anthony Martial and Kylian Mbappe arching him on the left and right, respectively. Wissam Ben Yedder enjoyed a grand season with AS Monaco finishing as the joint-top scorer of Ligue 1 and will lead the line for France against Croatia.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Dubois, Varane, Lenglet, Hernandez; Nzonzi, Camavinga; Mbappe, Griezmann, Martial; Ben Yedder
Zlatko Dalic had to cope with the absence of midfield duo Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric, with both players allowed to skip international duty, with the reason not mentioned. Marin Pongracic will also play no part for Croatia against France, after dropping out with an injury in the build-up to the game vs Portugal.
Sime Vrsaljko will likely return to the right-back spot for Croatia after being benched for Tin Jedvaj. Jedvaj is expected to start as well, occupying one of the centre-back spots alongside Olympique Marseille centre-half Duje Calte-Car. Borna Barisic will begin on the left side of the defence.
There are little doubts over the goalkeeper. Dominik Livakovic will retain his spot between the posts after his monstrous performance against Portugal, wherein he made seven top-class saves.
The midfield will feature a double pivot in the form of Marcelo Brozovic, who came on for Mario Pasalic at the hour mark. He will partner Chelsea Player of the Season Mateo Kovacic. Ahead of the duo, Andrej Kramaric will drop from the striker role to play as the attacking midfielder as he did so often with Hoffenheim in the past season.
The centre-forward role will be occupied by Bruno Petkovic, who came on for Kramaric and scored the consolation goal for Croatia in the 91st minute. Ante Rebic will play as the left-winger, with treble winner Ivan Perisic starting on the right side.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Livakovic; Vrsaljko, Calte-Car, Jedvaj, Barisic; Brozovic, Kovacic; Persisic, Kramaric, Rebic; Petkovic
- Croatia have not registered a single win over France in their history. The two teams have met four times in the past, including friendly games. France have won three of them, and one game has been a stalemate.
- The aggregate score between the two teams currently stands at 8-5, with France getting the better of Croatia.
- France are undefeated in their last eight games in all competitions. Their last defeat came against Turkey during the European qualifiers.
- Croatia have lost two of their last ten games in all competitions, winning six and drawing two.
- Croatia have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last four games. The last time France did not manage to score in a game was against Turkey in June 2019.
Player to Watch
Anthony Martial enjoyed a fantastic campaign with Manchester United, capping off the season with 23 goals across four competitions. Not only has he enjoyed his best season in terms of goal contributions, but the Frenchman also looks revitalised.
He has added multiple dimensions to his game as a striker and is willing to contribute in the form of off the ball work like pressing – a trait which was missing from his game earlier. Martial was left out of the World Cup squad by Dedier Deschamps – a decision that did not sit well with Manchester United fans.
He came on against Sweden to make his first appearance since March 2018 when France played Russia. He made an immediate impact after coming on, completing two dribbles and winning a penalty in the process – one which was missed by Antoine Griezmann. Expect him to set off the fireworks against Croatia.
France 3-0 Croatia
The Croatia National Team looked visibly fatigued against Portugal and were not able to keep up with the energy of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo. On Tuesday, they are up against the World Champions, who humbled them on the biggest stage of all.
The likes of Anthony Martial, Eduardo Camavinga and Antoine Griezmann have a point to prove against Croatia, and we expect them to go all guns blazing, provided Dedier Deschamps does not continue with the 3-4-1-2 formation, which looked like a disaster against Sweden.