MX23RW : Thursday, July 29 08:43:04| >> :600:4752823:4752823:
Mar 28, 2021 at 2pm UK at Astana Arena
FT(HT: 0-2)
Dembele (19'), Maliy (44' og.)
Dembele (88')

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

Sports Mole previews Sunday's World Cup Qualifying - Europe clash between Kazakhstan and France, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Kazakhstan gear up for a baptism of fire in World Cup Qualifying as they welcome reigning champions France to the Astana Arena in Group D on Sunday afternoon.

The hosts kick off their road to Qatar following some miserable results in 2020, while France could only take a point from their battle with Ukraine in midweek.

Match preview

Talgat Baysufinov in charge of Kazakhstan in 2016© Reuters

After a brief stint with the Under-21s team, Talgat Baysufinov returns to the dugout of the Kazakhstan senior team for their World Cup Qualifying campaign, replacing the much-maligned Michal Bilek after a dreadful Nations League campaign last autumn.

Indeed, Kazakhstan opened their tournament in ideal fashion with a 2-0 triumph in Lithuania, but they would fail to win any of their remaining five matches in a group with Belarus and Albania - ultimately finishing rock bottom of League C Group 4 and setting up a relegation playoff tie with Moldova, which takes place next year.

The landlocked nation managed to play out a goalless stalemate with Montenegro in between Nations League defeats to Belarus and Albania, but having now gone six games without a win and boasting just three triumphs from their last 16 in all competitions, anything other than a fifth-placed finish in Group D would constitute a successful qualification period.

Kazakhstan are highly unlikely to harbour aspirations of a first-ever World Cup Finals appearance as an independent nation, especially with France, Ukraine, Finland and Bosnia all vying for the top two spots in the group, so only pride is on the line for the 122nd-ranked nation before they go toe-to-toe with the reigning world champions.

France coach Didier Deschamps pictured on March 24, 2021© Reuters

Antoine Griezmann's stunning effort ended up proving futile against Ukraine, as France were forced to make do with a share of the spoils in their maiden qualification battle on their own turf in midweek.

The Barcelona man curled in a delightful left-footed strike with 19 minutes on the clock, but Ukraine midfielder Sergey Sydorchuk soon saw his effort take a significant deflection off Presnel Kimpembe into the back of the net, and the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud could not find a way through as the tie finished 1-1 at the Stade de France.

Didier Deschamps bemoaned his side's lack of ruthlessness in the first half as France's road to Qatar got off to a frustrating start, although Bosnia and Finland also played out an enthralling draw in their opening matchday, so there is very little cause for concern for the reigning champions after one dissatisfactory result.

Furthermore, France have established a reputation as away day specialists over the past couple of years, as they have strung together a six-game unbeaten run on the road - including impressive wins over Croatia and Portugal during that run - and having shipped just one goal in that time, the stats all point in Les Bleus' favour before the long journey to Nur-Sultan.

Sunday's battle represents the first ever meeting between France and Kazakhstan in any competition, and while the hosts have every right to dream of a famous win in the capital, it will likely remain a dream against a France team going out there with a point to prove.

Kazakhstan form (all competitions):
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L

France World Cup Qualifying - Europe form:
  • D

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

Team News

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante pictured on July 4, 2020© Reuters

Kazakhstan midfield lynchpin Islambek Kuat was given his marching orders last time out against Lithuania, but the 28-year-old has not been selected for the squad either way.

Artur Shushenachev would have hoped to earn his debut for the national team this month, but an injury has prevented the Kairat forward from linking up with the team for March's fixtures.

CSKA Moscow's Baktiyar Zaynutdinov will carry the goalscoring burden - he boasts seven strikes in 16 appearances for his country - and another one would see him move join third in the all-time top scorer charts for Kazakhstan alongside Sergei Khizhnichenko, who has not made the cut.

In a huge blow to Deschamps and France, N'Golo Kante has sustained a hamstring injury and will play no part in their next two matches, so Paul Pogba will hope to grasp his opportunity in midfield.

The Bleus manager admitted that Mbappe did not play well before he was substituted on Wednesday - with some surprised that the Paris Saint-Germain forward started after an injury scare - so he could be rested here as Ousmane Dembele looks to impress.

Rotation should be on the cards before a more daunting clash with Bosnia, so Anthony Martial, Lucas Digne and Leo Dubois are in contention to feature from the first whistle here.

Kazakhstan possible starting lineup:
Pokatilov; Alip, Marochkin, Erlanov; Beysebekov, Abiken, Zaynutdinov, Tagybergen, Shomko; Aymbetov, Fedin

France possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Dubois, Varane, Lenglet, Digne; Pogba, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Coman; Martial

SM words green background

We say: Kazakhstan 0-4 France

France could hardly have a better opportunity to right the wrongs of midweek against a Kazakhstan side who did not cover themselves in glory last year. The return of Baysufinov may boost the confidence in the hosts' camp, but a shock home win seems out of the question and the champions should ease to a comfortable victory at the second time of asking in Group D.

Top tip

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Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante pictured on July 4, 2020
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Thursday's key events

· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
· There is also a medal on offer for GB pair Emily Craig and Imogen Grant in the lightweight women's double scull final (2.10am)

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· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
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· Mallory Franklin takes part in the women's canoe semi-final, and will hope to do enough to qualify for the final later in the day (6am-8.45am)

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