France set out to keep its World Cup hopes alive with a crucial match against Spain on the horizon, but Les Bleus cannot overlook a young Georgia club hungry for another victory in the group stage.
Georgia have little hope of a surprise second-place finish in the group after splitting a pair of matches with Belarus, playing to a draw with Finland and falling to Spain 1-0, but the Crusaders cannot be overlooked.
France sits even with Spain with seven points in the group, but the Spaniards hold a plus-two advantage in goals. Les Bleus need to pick up as many points as possible against Georgia and hope to find the net on multiple occasions in order to establish optimal position for a showdown with Spain on March 26.
When: Friday, March 22, at 4 p.m. ET (9 p.m. local time)
Where: Stade de France, Paris
Television: ESPN3, Univision Deportes (per LiveSoccerTV.com)
Live Stream: SoccerLiveLinks.com
Probable Lineups (via Goal.com)
|Jallet, Koscielny, Sakho, Evra|
|Valbuena, Matuidi, Cabaye, Ribery|
|Kashia, Amisulashvili, Khizanishvili|
|Kankava, Daushvili, Grigalashvili|
Player to Watch
Paul Pogba: France
Midfielder Paul Pogba has put together a breakout year with Juventus, and the 20-year-old will be a key contributor for Les Bleus in their attempt to take down Georgia on Friday.
Pogba wasn’t given regular playing time with Manchester United, but the rising star has been able to settle in with Juventus, scoring five goals in 21 appearances. The regular first-team experience has aided in his development, and France will hope to take advantage of his developing skills against the Crusaders.
Pogba has a vicious strike with the quick feet and athleticism to match. While France shakes up their lineup in this match, expect the young midfielder to take advantage of the opportunity with a big performance.
What They’re Saying
According to Mohammed Ali of Goal.com, Didier Deschamps will likely “tinker with his side against Georgia” with a far more crucial match against Spain on the horizon.
The former Marseille boss hinted earlier in the week he may try a 4-4-2 formation, with Karim Benzema and Arsenal's Olivier Giroud both starting against the Eastern European outfit.
Dan Levy confirms that potential strategy with this tweet:
Benzema & Giroud up front together in a 4-4-2 is how @rmcsport are saying France are preparing to line up against Georgia on Friday.— danlevy1 (@danlevy1) March 19, 2013
While the Crusaders will still have some work to do, a win over France would pull the clubs even in points in the qualifying group. France cannot afford to take any chances with so much at stake.
“Focus” is the name of the game for Les Bleus in this matchup.
Les Bleus defender Rod Fanni is prepared to rally his team in preparation, and as quoted by FoxSportsAsia.com, he knows Georgia cannot be taken lightly:
Everything points to this game being a trap for us. They are a very tough team, very organised and we have to respect them and not take them lightly. They can play tricks on us and although I don't know any individual players I am worried about their collective strength. That's what we need to worry about.
The clear-cut favorite in this match, France has to avoid tripping up against the Crusaders on Friday for a chance to emerge from the group stage with the sole qualifying spot.
France will edge out Georgia in a 2-1 bout, aided by the strong play of defenders Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sakho and midfielder Paul Pogba. It won’t be an easy victory, but Les Bleus will come out on top with momentum on their side for a showdown with Spain.