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Mondial-2018: hot week for the French team

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – REMY GABALDA – | Antoine Griezmann and Les Bleus remain on a draw against Luxembourg from goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert on 3 September 2017 in Toulouse

The Blues, with no doubts and absences, have a first group place to defend with their last two qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup in Russia on Saturday in Bulgaria and then the following Tuesday against Belarus.

At the top of group A, France has one point ahead of Sweden and four ahead of the Netherlands. She will therefore automatically go to the World Cup if she wins her two matches.

“We have to win both matches, it’s the direct elimination, it’s good to have that intensity, this little pressure before the match is perfect,” summarized Antoine Griezmann.

By finishing second, the European vice-champions would allocate a final session of catch-up and chills with a round-trip in November.

They will be directly qualified from Saturday night if they win in Sofia (20:45 French), provided that Sweden bows at home against Luxembourg, a little earlier (18:00 French).

– Four absentees –

The Luxemburgers, who came to neutralize the Blues in early September in Toulouse (0-0), are certainly capable of a new feat, but a victory on their part in Scandinavia seems unlikely. The French qualification is likely to play against Belarus on 10 October at the Stade de France.

Still it is necessary first to ensure the blow and take it to Bulgaria. And that’s where it starts to burn. For even if Didier Deschamps does not believe in “ghosts”, those of the fatal France-Bulgaria (1-2) depriving the Blues of the World-1994 will not fail to tarabust the collective conscience, if only by the presence Saturday ‘a Kostadinov (Georgi) evoking the executioner of 1993 (Emil).

Ⓒ AFP – Vincent LEFAI – | The French football team

Above all, the coach is now confronted with the specter of four major players, absent from injury. Laurent Koscielny, who has recently become the main defensive benchmark for the Blues, added to the package announced on Sunday by three other holders: left-back Benjamin Mendy, midfielder Paul Pogba, who was suspended for Bulgaria, and l attacking Ousmane Dembélé.

Koscielny has been digitally replaced by Adil Rami but Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti is expected to be a central hinge partner for Raphaël Varane, back from injury, in front of goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris and alongside right-back Djibril Sidibé .

On the left, the absence of Mendy seems more prejudicial, his substitute Layvin Kurzawa not offering the same guarantees. The Parisian was called despite a level that had become erratic and a video where he denigrated the coach, even if the images were not disclosed. Deschamps absolved him on behalf of the “private” character of the case.

– Light Mbappé –

In front, the absence of the right winger Dembélé is largely compensated by the excellent shape of the nugget Kylian Mbappé, 18 years, which rightly evolves right at the PSG. The rest of the offensive sector is more suffering, like Olivier Giroud, substitute at Arsenal, or Thomas Lemar, still in search of his best level following an injury.

And Griezmann is not at best, at the end of a week marked by two dull performances with Atletico Madrid. It is also true that the last time that the attack leader of the Blues and more generally their offensive sector had aroused great doubts, they had responded by fireworks on 31 August to the detriment of the Netherlands beaten 4-0 …

In the middle, without Pogba, N’Golo Kanté will be supported by Blaise Matuidi and / or Adrien Rabiot, depending on the game system. Will Deschamps choose a conquering or cautious pattern?

The concomitant establishment of these three environments would be a sign of uncertainty, just like that of Moussa Sissoko. “DD” has justified the recall of this versatile player, often aligned in selection on the right wing in a register worker or even defensive, by “the battle” expected in Bulgaria.

And in fact: if France beat the Bulgarians a year ago at the “SdF” (4-1), they won all their matches at home, especially against Dutch (2-0) and Swedish (3-2 ). The weather looks set to be cool on Saturday night in Sofia, but for the Blues it will be hot.

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