Deschamps: 'I fear Zlatan'

Les Bleus

France coach Didier Deschamps has admitted he would rather not face Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a play-off for a place at the 2014 World Cup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

FIFA World Cup qualifying Group I, Matchday 8

Stade de France, Paris

France - Finland  (Kick-off at 21:00 CET)

Ibrahimovic is suspended for his nation's final Group C qualifier with Germany in Stockholm on Tuesday, but the PSG forward has already secured his nation's berth in next month's play-offs with an assist and the matchwinning goal in last Friday's triumph over Austria.

Barring a major surprise, France are all but certain to finish second in Group I behind Spain and consequently also face two games on 15 and 19 November for the right to go to Brazil next summer.

Given their FIFA ranking, France are unlikely to be seeded in next Monday's draw in Zurich. Croatia and Greece are two likely opponents, but it is Ibrahimovic's Sweden and the Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo Deschamps fears most being pitted against his team.

"Portugal and Sweden both have players of world renown: Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They make you afraid, but the two other teams also have qualities," Deschamps told the press. "You could say that it would be better to avoid this team or that team, but if we're not seeds it's because those teams have a better FIFA ranking than us and have obtained better results."

Lloris: 'Maintain momentum'

After Friday's 6-0 rout of Australia at the Parc des Princes, Les Bleus will step out at the Stade de France brimful of confidence. Mathieu Valbuena and Laurent Koscielny are likely to return to the starting XI after missing Friday's game, the former rested in favour of Samir Nasri, the latter with a calf injury. Nasri, meanwhile, should replace Loïc Rémy on the right flank.

Captain Hugo Lloris wants the team to maintain their form against the Finns, allowing them to carry significant momentum into the play-offs.

"It's important to create a positive dynamic for our confidence. And it's also a means of preparing for the play-off. You can do what you like before, however. The important thing is to be there when it matters," explained the former Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper. "It makes things more difficult not to be seeds, but we have to deal with it. It also shows us the work we still have to do even if I don't think anyone wants to be drawn against France."


Probable teams

France: Lloris (c); Debuchy, Koscielny, Abidal, Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Nasri, Valbuena, Ribéry; Giroud

Finland: Mäenpää; Arkiuvo, Pasanen, Hlasti, Raitala; Ring, R.Eremenko, Tainio(c); Hämäläinen, Pukki, Hetemau


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