France, who have already qualified for the World Cup in Qatar, face Finland, who will be aiming to secure a second-place finish in Group D.

Finland were lucky to escape with all three points against Bosnia & Herzegovina, considering how their clash transpired following the red card to Jukka Raitala. His horror tackle on Sead Kolasinac resulted in the dismissal, placing their chance of closing in on the second spot in real danger.

However, after Teemu Pukki missed a glorious chance to put them ahead from the spot, Marcus Forss was on hand to secure the goal with a chested finish just a few moments later. Further strikes from Robin Lod and Daniel O’Shaughnessy ensured three points, as Finland continued their quest to finish second in the group with firm pressure from rivals Ukraine.

The win ensured they went past Ukraine into the second spot with 11 points on the board. However, their fate will be decided based on the final results of this qualification round, albeit a difficult one against France. Ukraine, on nine points, have a real chance to surpass them if they manage a win, and Finland crumble against the French side.

France will come into the game with calmness, having already qualified for the World Cup. Their composure and patience was evident in the 8-0 mauling of Kazakhstan on Sunday. Looking at the scoreline, France will look intimidating to any given opponent, let alone Finland.

With 15 points from seven games, the reigning world champions are certain to finish in the top spot in Group D. While Les Blues need not worry about getting into Qatar, Didier Deschamps will be keen to maintain his side’s unbeaten run, as they are one of nine teams yet to lose a single game in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Team News & Tactics

Finland

Jukka Raitala’s red card against Bosnia means he is suspended for the crunch clash with France. Either Albin Granlund or Jere Uronen could replace the right wing-back.

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Secondly, they might have a problem with Robert Ivanov, who sustained a knock in that game. It remains to be seen if Markku Kanerva will risk him, given their obvious need to secure a win.

Teemu Pukki will make his 100th appearance for Finland if he starts, which he is very much likely to, considering what is at stake. Meanwhile, he will be partnered by Marcus Forss in a front two, ahead of Joel Pohjanpalo.

Kanerva is expected to keep his team’s shape with a back three likely to be deployed again. Daniel O’Shaughnessy will line up at the centre, with Leo Vaisanen and Paulus Arajuuri on either side of him. Niko Hamalainen and Granlund are expected to play wing-backs with a midfield three of Robin Lod, Rasmus Schuller, and Glen Kamara all squeezed between them.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Hradecky; Arajuuri, O’Shaughnessy, Vaisanen; Granlund, Lod, Schuller, Kamara, Hamalainen; Pukki, Forss

France

Deschamps does not have any injuries or suspensions to deal with as he hopes to maintain the unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifying campaign. The manager could yet rotate his personnel to give some of his fringe stars a start.

Matteo Guendouzi could be handed his debut in this clash despite the hostile reception he received from the audience recently for some of his comments. He could be partnered by Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield, as Deschamps might use this game to mix up a bit.

In defence, Deschamps could look to bring in Kurt Zouma in place of Dayot Upamecano while leaving his partners in their positions. As a result, Lucas Hernandez and Jules Kounde might start again, as the manager looks for some continuity at the back.

In attack, the manager could make a change, with Wissam Ben Yedder likely to come in place of Karim Benzema while retaining four-goal star Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann in their respective attacking positions.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Lloris; Kounde, Zouma, L.Hernandez; Pavard, Tchouameni, Guendouzi, Digne; Griezmann; Ben Yedder, Mbappe

Key Stats

  • Finland will have to match or better Ukraine’s result to finish in the second spot in their group.
  • Finland have lost three of their last four meetings with France.
  • On home soil, Finland have only managed one win from their previous five games in all competitions.
  • France are one of the nine teams in UEFA qualifying not to lose a single game in this World Cup qualifying campaign.
  • France are unbeaten in their previous 18 games in World Cup-related ties.

Player To Watch

Kylian Mbappe

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This is a game of no real consequence for the French, but Deschamps will be more than keen to keep momentum and the unbeaten run going. And as in the previous game, he will expect his team to be relentless in their pursuit of goals in Helsinki.

Kylian Mbappe hence comes into the spotlight after his four-goal haul against Kazakhstan in the previous round. The PSG star could extend his goalscoring record even further with a good performance against Finland and heap pressure on their hosts.

Prediction

Finland 1-3 France

It’s a hopeful dream to outclass this French side who are high on confidence from recent games. They also have a good few results against Finland in competitive matches, making it harder for the home side. With nothing to lose and barely any pressure on the French plyers, they might go all guns blazing.

Meanwhile, Finland have everything to gain by winning this encounter while hoping that Ukraine falter in their clash against Bosnia in the final round of qualifiers. However, the home side might find it hard to overcome the French side, who should bag all three points with comfort.

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