France will be aiming for another away win when they lock horns with Bosnia & Herzegovina at Stadium Grbavica on Wednesday.
France travel to Sarajevo on Wednesday as they take on Bosnia & Herzegovina in their third European qualifying match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They will be hoping to end their international break on a strong note, after being held by Ukraine in their very first game, at Stade de France.
The current world champions did, however, secure a convincing 2-0 victory over Kazakhstan on the weekend, meaning they are now the only side to secure a single victory in Group D currently. It puts them right at the top of the standings, with Finland and Ukraine being second and third respectively with back to back draws.
Bosnia & Herzegovina are fourth with just one point on the board. They have played only one game, however, drawing 2-2 with Finland about a week ago, before being held to another draw with Costa Rica in an international friendly.
The Golden Lillies will be hoping for another point against France this week as it could put them in a great position to compete with Finland and Ukraine for second place in the group.
However, the Balkan state will be well aware of the stern test Les Bleus will offer, especially if we consider their majestic record away from home. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both sides ahead of this crucial fixture in the Group D of the European qualifiers this week.
Team News & Tactics
Bosnia & Herzegovina
The international friendly with Costa Rica on the weekend was actually a boon for Bosnia & Herzegovina as it offered head coach Ivaylo Petev to rest a host of his key players, including Miralem Pjanic.
The experienced Barcelona midfielder should return to the midfield, likely to partner Gojko Cimirot in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1 that will primarily look to adopt a strong first line of press. As such, attacking players like Rade Krunic, Miroslav Stevanovic and Amer Gojak should all play a key role in pressing the ball-carriers and minimise the spaces available during France’s build-up play.
At the same time, the creative trifecta will be hoping to provide the supply for Edin Dzeko upfront, primarily through crosses as the veteran forward is quite strong in the air. Bosnia, unfortunately, have lost an excellent alternative in Ermedin Demirovic as the dynamic has returned to Freiburg.
Defensively, Petev is likely to opt for a generic back four, led by Sead Kolasinac, who interestingly did not feature against Finland about a week ago.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sehic; Todorovic, Sanicanin, Hadzikadunic, Kolasinac; Pjanic, Cimirot; Stevanovic, Gojak, Krunic; Dzeko
The weekend fixture against a lowly Kazakhstan had offered Didier Deschamps the ideal opportunity to ring in the changes to his squad, in light of this tougher challenge against Bosnia.
With two games played, one could argue that the team selection for this particular game could be based solely on merit. But we expect Deschamps to recall most of the players who started against Ukraine, especially in the defensive unit with Raphael Varane coming in for Clement Lenglet.
Kazakhstan ➡️ Bosnia-Herzegovina
— French Team ⭐⭐ (@FrenchTeam) March 29, 2021
Further changes include the likely return of two Bayern Munich full-backs in Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez, at the expense of Lucas Digne and Leo Dubois. It will be interesting to see who will get the license the move forward as both these players are largely defence-oriented. It could even tempt Deschamps to play Digne ahead of Hernandez, just to retain some sort of balance.
In midfield, N’Golo Kante was ruled out after picking up an injury against Ukraine. Paul Pogba had starred after returning to the first-team against Kazakhstan, but it appears he is likely to start on the bench for this one, paving the way for Adrien Rabiot and Tanguy Ndombele to operate in the double-pivot.
Ndombele is the more attack-minded midfielder and boasts excellent quality on the ball, meaning he will be given the license to drive forward like he usually does with Tottenham. It could bode well for the number ten in Antoine Griezmann, providing him with an additional passing option in the final third.
As for the remainder of the French attack, Kylian Mbappe is almost guaranteed to return to the flanks, alongside Kingsley Coman, with Olivier Giroud spearheading Les Bleus’ attack. His positioning inside the box coupled with an aerial prowess could be useful if Bosnia decides to defend in low blocks.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez; Rabiot, Ndombele; Mbappe, Griezmann, Coman; Giroud
- Bosnia and France last met way back in October 2011, with the two sides playing out a 1-1 draw.
- France are coming into this game on the back of seven consecutive away wins in all competitions.
- France managed to win six of the eight fixtures that they played in 2020, losing just once (D1).
- Bosnia & Herzegovina have not won a single international game since their 3-0 triumph over Lichtenstein way back in November 2019, in the UEFA Euro qualifiers.
Player to Watch
Kylian Mbappe has had a mixed time in the international break so far. He was not particularly impressive in the opening game against Ukraine and was dropped to the bench against Kazakhstan, as part of Deschamps’ large rotation policy. He did feature as a substitute but missed a penalty that puts him under pressure heading into this game.
Indeed, the Frenchman has had a difficult time recently and with quality players like Thomas Lemar and Ousmane Dembele pushing for starts, it will be imperative for him to produce a solid display against Bosnia & Herzegovina this week.
It appears Mbappe will likely face Kolasinac on the flanks, so the PSG forward will be hoping to use his pace to outfox the Arsenal defenders currently on loan at Schalke. However, it might not be particularly easy as Bosnia are likely to adopt a defensive approach that should see Kolasinac largely operating deep, making it difficult for the French players to penetrate.
Bosnia & Herzegovina 0-2 France
France are the undisputed favourites heading into this game. They have a strong squad and an excellent depth, combined with a marvellous record away from home. Bosnia, in contrast, have struggled to maintain consistency over the course of ninety minutes in their last two matches and are likely to fumble against the world champions this week.