MX23RW : Tuesday, September 21 15:32:47| >> :600:1201647:1201647:
Mar 24, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stade Auguste Delaune
Griezmann (19')
Pavard (30')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Kimpembe (57' og.)

Preview: France vs. Ukraine - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's World Cup qualifier between France and Ukraine, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

France take the first step towards defending their World Cup crown on Wednesday when they welcome Ukraine to the Stade de France in qualification Group D on Wednesday evening.

The hosts will be eyeing a comfortable route to Qatar over the next year, while Ukraine are bidding to qualify for the finals for the first time since 2006.

Match preview

France boss Didier Deschamps on November 14, 2019© Reuters

The famed Brazil heroes of the 1950s and 1960s were the last group of players to complete back-to-back World Cup triumphs, and it had only ever been achieved once before that, with Italy conquering the world in 1934 and 1938 before World War II led to a 12-year hiatus.

However, Didier Deschamps and France will believe that 2022 glory is firmly on the cards in Qatar, and if an older and wiser Kylian Mbappe can demonstrate the sort of inspiration that led his side to glory three years ago, Les Bleus will be well-placed to become only the third ever team to successfully defend their World Cup crown.

A shock defeat to Finland in a friendly was the only blot on the landscape for France in 2020, as Deschamps's men took 16 points from a possible 18 in their Nations League group to qualify for the finals ahead of reigning champions Portugal - whom they beat 1-0 on November 14 - and Les Bleus' most recent match was a resounding 4-2 triumph over Sweden in their final match of League A Group 3.

Deschamps's side will be gearing up for a semi-final against Belgium later in the year, but for now, the world champions will simply endeavour to assert their dominance in qualification for the biggest stage of them all, and they have not failed to make the finals since 1994.

Incredibly, France managed to notch up at least four goals in all three of their home victories during 2020, so Ukraine are certainly set for a rough ride as they harbour their own aspirations of an appearance in Qatar.

Ukraine head coach Andriy Shevchenko pictured on November 11, 2020© Reuters

The 2020-21 Nations League was a truly forgettable affair for Andriy Shevchenko's Ukraine, who were relegated down to League B after succumbing to a 3-0 defeat in their final game to Switzerland, who finished above their adversaries on head-to-head goal difference.

All three of Ukraine's fixtures in November ended in defeat, and Shevchenko's men shipped at least two goals in each of those defeats - hardly a recipe for success against a France team known for their ruthlessness on home soil - although they did claim a 1-0 victory over Spain back in October.

This week's visitors to the Stade de France will certainly feel capable of securing a runners-up place and a spot in the playoffs, although Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina may have a thing or two to say about that, but Ukraine have only qualified for the World Cup once as an independent nation since 1994.

The Eastern European nation gave a good account of themselves in their inaugural World Cup finals appearance in 2006, as they progressed to the quarter-finals before being dumped out by eventual winners Italy, and having failed to make an appearance on the big stage since, Shevchenko will hope to use his big-game experience to inspire his team to Qatar in the coming months.

France and Ukraine last met as recently as October 2020, and Shevchenko's men were simply swept aside by the World champions on that occasion, as Deschamps's side stormed to a 7-1 win in a friendly.

France form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W

Ukraine form (all competitions):
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

France's Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring against Ukraine in an international friendly on October 7, 2020© Reuters

Fulham loanee Alphonse Areola has earned a recall to the national team after his solid performances at Craven Cottage, but Hugo Lloris is in no danger of losing his place in goal, as three caps this month would see him go level with Thierry Henry in the all-time appearances list.

Paul Pogba has also joined up with the team despite his well-documented struggles at Manchester United, and the 28-year-old is expected to start here, but Alexandre Lacazette has been overlooked once again.

Deschamps has not called on any uncapped players for this month's qualifiers - a statement of intent from the experienced coach - while Olivier Giroud and Anthony Martial seem set for spots up front after Mbappe came off early against Lyon with a minor problem.

Ukraine and Shevchenko should line up in their customary 4-3-3 formation, with veteran goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov set to earn his 97th cap for the national team at the Stade de France.

Viktor Tsygankov scored his side's consolation goal in their 7-1 humiliation against France last year, but the Dynamo Kiev man will not take part this month due to injury, while experienced midfielder Taras Stepanenko has also failed to make the cut with a muscle problem of his own.

West Ham United's Andriy Yarmolenko - who sits second behind Shevchenko in the all-time goalscoring charts - will be joining up with the team despite his injury, but he may not be risked from the off.

France possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez; Kante, Pogba, Ndombele; Griezmann; Martial, Giroud

Ukraine possible starting lineup:
Pyatov; Karavaev, Matvienko, Kryvtsov, Sobol; Sydorchuk, Zinchenko, Malinovskyi; Marlos, Yaremchuk, Konoplyanka

SM words green background

We say: France 3-0 Ukraine

Ukraine will do all in their power to avoid being on the end of another six-goal thrashing against the World Champions, and the visitors have lost some key players to injury before their trip to the Stade de France. Furthermore, Shevchenko's side cannot forget their Nations League campaign quickly enough, whereas a near full-strength France will be brimming with confidence, so a comfortable win for the holders is the only outcome that we can envisage this week.

Top tip

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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane pictured in February 2021
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