France will try to forget their unlikely loss vs Tunisia when they take on Poland at the Al Thumama Stadium in the Round of 16 on Sunday.

France lost to Tunisia, but the result did not hurt them badly, and they will try to make amends when they face Poland on Sunday. An injury-ravaged French team managed to win their first two matches with utter dominance. But a second-string side failed to illustrate their pedigree on the biggest stage in the last game.

France were the first team to wrap up a knockout spot, and Les Bleus would not just be sitting around by conquering Poland in the next round. Kylian Mbappe has already demonstrated what he is capable of, but this World Cup has been full of uncertainties.

So Didier Deschamps might have to work a little bit more so that they can avoid a repeat of the mishap at UEFA Euro 2020, where they lost to Switzerland via penalties under the more or less same circumstances.

Poland might have to thank their group-stage opponent as they narrowly edged Mexico to seal a knockout berth. They were not impressive in the group stage, but Robert Lewandowski and co. need to start marking their presence felt. Otherwise, it would be a shoot-to-kill moment for France.

They need to make sure they are not here by a mere fluke, and a statement performance against France might be a good start. If Wojciech Szczesny was not between the sticks, they might have been tottering outside of the Round of 16 as the Juventus goalkeeper has rescued them on a number of occasions.

Going by their recent form, all the odds will be against Poland to mark their territory with complete authority. But the onus will definitely be on them to do the impossible. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the FIFA World Cup 2022 encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.

Team News & Tactics

France

France will undergo a sea of changes as the fringe players failed to impress Didier Deschamps, who will call back his first-team players again. Hugo Lloris will return between the sticks, while Raphael Varane and Dayot Upamecano will be deputising at the heart of the defence.

Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez will be taking responsibility for protecting the flanks. Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni will try to pick the pieces in the middle of the pitch and look to dominate the midfield battle.

Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe will be blazing all guns from the wings, while Antoine Griezmann will be in the number 10 position. Olivier Giroud is just one goal shy from breaking Thierry Henry’s record for the national team, and he might reach that in this game.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Kounde, Upamecano, Varane, Theo Hernandez; Tchouameni, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud

 

Poland

Wojciech Szczesny has been a one-man machine in the goal, and he will be guarded by a backline of Matty Cash, Jakub Kiwior, Kamil Glik and Bartosz Bereszynski.

Krystian Bielik and Grzegorz Krychowiak will be dealing with the midfield battle as the game will be decided much around the centre circle. Przemyslaw Frankowski and Piotr Zielinski will appear on the flanks to drive the attack. Finally, Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik will double up ahead to form the strike partnership.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cash, Kiwior, Glik, Bereszynski; Zielinski, Bielik, Krychowiak, Frankowski; Milik, Lewandowski

Key Stats

  • Sunday’s clash will be the second meeting between France and Poland at the World Cup, with their previous one coming in the third-place play-off match in the 1982 tournament – a 3-2 win for Poland. France are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Poland across all competitions (W3 D4), with their last defeat against them being in a friendly in August 1982 (0-4). Les Bleus have kept a clean sheet in each of the last three in this run, all of which have been since the turn of the millennium
  • Since the Round of 16 was introduced in the 1986 World Cup, France have appeared at this stage on five occasions and progressed from all five ties (1986, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018). The only other nations to appear at this stage more than once and progress each time are Germany (8/8) and Croatia (2/2).
  • Sunday’s game will be the third time that Poland will face the reigning champions in a World Cup. They have avoided defeat in each of the previous two – 1-0 vs Brazil in 1974 and 0-0 vs Germany in 1978. For France, meanwhile, this will be their first knockout stage game at the World Cup as reigning champions.
  • Antoine Griezmann has created more chances than any other France player at the 2022 World Cup (11). The only player to create 10+ in either of the last two World Cups for France has been Griezmann, while he has already surpassed his total from 2018 when they lifted the trophy (10).
  • Wojciech Szczesny has a 90% save percentage at the 2022 World Cup. He had saved each of his first 16 shots on target faced in the tournament prior to Alexis Mac Allister’s goal for Argentina. Szczesny has saved a penalty in each of his last two games at the World Cup, with no goalkeeper on record ever stopping three penalties in a single edition of the tournament (since 1966, excluding shootouts).

Player to Watch

Kylian Mbappe

The youngster played a pivotal role in France’s triumph at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. And Mbappe might have to showcase his trickery once again to get across to the quarter-finals. The 23-year-old has been in stellar form, scoring a brace in France’s 2-1 win over Denmark. And he will be the man to watch for Les Bleus against Poland on Sunday.

Prediction

France 2-0 Poland

France’s lethal attack could be an unfortunate incident for Poland, who also have a certain Robert Lewandowski in the ranks. Les Bleus have talents across the pitch, and they should come out unscathed from this clash. The Hard Tackle predicts a run-of-the-mill 2-0 win for Didier Deschamps and his charges on Sunday.

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