France will look to get a step closer to the 2022 FIFA World Cup when they take on European minnows, Kazakhstan on Saturday.
World champions and UEFA Nations League holders France will take on minnows Kazakhstan in a FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier on Saturday.
Les Bleus can secure themselves top spot in Group D should they clinch all three points on the night. So far, France are unbeaten in the qualifiers and have won and drawn three games apiece. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan are winless and have long since seen themselves eliminated from the running.
Didier Deschamps’s men go into the game as heavy favourites and will be expected to get the job done. France are currently on a ten-game unbeaten run at home in World Cup qualifiers. The last time the world champions suffered a reversal at home was against Spain in 2013.
Both teams have faced each other once before in a competitive setup. Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele gave his nation the lead on the night before an own goal from Serhiy Malyi ensured victory for France. Anything but a repeat of the result would be a shock of sorts.
Deschamps & co. find themselves at the top of Group D, with a three-point lead over Ukraine, having played a game less. A win will all but give them an unassailable lead going into the final set of matches. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
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Les Bleus have named a strong squad that clearly shows the deep pool of talent available for Didier Deschamps to choose from. They suffered a major blow earlier this week when Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba injured himself in training. AS Roma’s Jordan Veretout has since replaced the 28-year-old in the France squad.
Deschamps will also be without Paris Saint-Germain star Presnel Kimpembe on the night. The defender was forced to pull out due to an injury. He has joined another Manchester United player, Raphael Varane on the sidelines for the game.
Despite missing three key players, Deschamps has enough in his locker to get the job done. While a pair of draws against Ukraine and another with Bosnia & Herzegovina have raised eyebrows this year, Les Bleus silenced their critics by stepping up for the Nations League final. Anything less than three points against Kazakhstan will once again undoubtedly throw up questions.
Veteran goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is expected to start in goal. Deschamps could opt for the 3-4-1-2 formation with Jules Kounde, Dayot Upamecano and Lucas Hernandez forming the back three ahead of Lloris.
Experienced midfielder N’Golo Kante and upcoming sensation Aurelien Tchouameni could form the central midfield pairing that has ‘unbeatable’ written all over it, at least on paper. The latter stepped up in the former’s absence for the Nations League final and it will be interesting to see how they function as a pair. The duo will be expected to keep things tight in the middle of the park, giving Theo Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard the freedom to attack freely.
Antoine Griezmann will be the man tasked with creating opportunities from midfield. He looks set to start behind a front two of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe. The French setup does however appear too narrow, giving their full-backs the responsibility to provide the depth. While it is something opponents can exploit, the difference in quality should see Deschamps’s side waltz their way to an easy win.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Lloris; Kounde, Upamecano, Lucas Hernandez; Kante, Tchouameni, Theo Hernandez, Pavard; Griezmann; Benzema, Mbappe
The visitors face an uphill task against one of the most formidable sides in the game today. Kazakhstan will be without Yan Vorogovskiy and Bakhtiyar Zainutdinov, who have both been suspended for the game.
The duo’s unavailability could very well hand Maksat Taykenov and Artur Shushenachev a chance to impress. Kazakhstan, for their part, could approach the game with a 3-5-2 formation. The aim will be to pack the midfield and then attempt to hit France on the counter.
It is a tactic that could cause the world champions some issues if implemented right. However, Didier Deschamps could throw a wrench in the works should he bring on a player such as Kingsley Coman off the bench.
Stas Pokatilov and Igor Shatskiy shared responsibilities in goal during the last international break and the former looks set to start between the sticks this time around. He will be protected at the back by the trio of Aleksandr Marochkin, Serhiy Malyi and Nuraly Alip.
Islambek Kuat, Vladislav Vassiljev and Askhat Tagybergen will be tasked with keeping the French midfield quiet in the middle of the park. While they could have superior numbers, the quality offered by N’Golo Kante and Aurelien Tchouameni on the night could prove telling.
Maksat Taykenov and Marat Bystrov will be tasked with providing the width and also as the first line of defence when France play the ball outside to the flanks. Azat Nurgaliev and Artur Shushenachev will lead the line and will hope to be presented with a chance or two that could catch the French defence unawares.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Pokalitov; Marochkin, Alip, Maliy; Taykenov, Vassiljev, Kuat, Tagybergen, Bystrov; Shushenachev, Nurgaliev
- This is just the second meeting between both teams. France won the previous tie 2-0 away in Kazakhstan.
- Les Bleus are currently on a ten-game unbeaten run at home in World Cup qualifiers.
- Kazakhstan are winless in their last 20 FIFA World Cup qualifiers while France are unbeaten in their last 17.
- France have conceded just three goals in the qualifiers this time around and have the best defence in the group. Kazakhstan however are at the other end of the spectrum, having let in 12.
Player to Watch
The PSG ace has had a rather underwhelming season in front of goal. Mbappe now has the right opportunity to get it back on track against Kazakhstan. His pace and directness is major weapon that can trouble the best of defenders in the world. With Karim Benzema in his thirties, the onus to support Griezmann into fashioning chances upfront will fall on Mbappe’s shoulders.
It is entirely possible that Benzema will act as the finisher while Mbappe looks to play a more creative role. With Les Bleus looking set to play a narrow formation, the 22-year-old may also be needed to drift out to the left and support Theo Hernandez on the flank.
France 3-0 Kazakhstan
Even on paper, the disparity in quality between both teams is quite apparent. France may have a few players missing but there is enough in their ranks to see off Kazakhstan quite easily. The visitors could make life difficult for the home side should they stick to a rigid formation and showcase discipline. But anything less than a comfortable win for France will come as a shock.