A pair of 2014 World Cup contenders will go head-to-head in Paris on Wednesday night as France play host to the Netherlands in a marquee international friendly.
Both European powerhouses secured World Cup berths last fall and have now begun preparations for Brazil.
The Dutch were left heartbroken in South Africa four years ago, falling to Spain in extra time of the final. Since then, Louis van Gaal has taken over head coaching duties and the squad has continued its rank among the world's best year after year.
Meanwhile, Les Bleus are hoping for a much better result in 2014 after bowing out in the group stage in South Africa in 2010. Like the Dutch, with a new manager at the helm in Didier Deschamps and a renewed focus, France will enter Brazil with the same lofty expectations they are accustomed to.
Below we'll get you set with everything you need to know before kick-off.
Date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Start Time: 9 p.m. local time, 3 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. GMT
Where: Stade de France, Paris
TV: TF1 (France), SBS 6 (Netherlands)
What to Watch For: France's Antoine Griezmann Looks to Break Through
While there'll be no shortage of stars on display in Paris on Wednesday, one lesser-known player viewers will want to keep an eye on is French winger Antoine Griezmann, who has been lighting it up with Real Sociedad this season, scoring 15 goals in 24 La Liga matches.
15 - Antoine Griezmann has scored 15 league goals this term, more than any other French player in the Top 4 European leagues + L1. Bleu.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) February 27, 2014
The 22-year-old has made more than two dozen appearances for various French youth squads over the years, but he has yet to make his debut for the senior side.
Therefore, Wednesday's friendly could very well turn out to be Griezmann's biggest international appearance to date, per the Associated Press' Jerome Pugmire (via Miami Herald):
"I don't put myself under any pressure when I play. For me it's a game. If the coach called me up it's because he thinks I can bring something to the team. I hope I can prove it out on the pitch," he was quoted as saying.
If Griezmann is able to impress against a strong squad in the Netherlands, he'll have an excellent shot at making the World Cup roster as Deschamps will be looking for dangerous players who are capable of pushing his side over the top.
Which side will win?
Both France and the Netherlands will be using Wednesday's clash as an opportunity to gauge young talent and build a 23-man roster for Brazil. But still, each side will be looking for a positive result in order to build confidence ahead of June's World Cup.
Although these two squads won't meet in South America, unless it's during the knockout stage, each will be a tough test for the other and serve as excellent World Cup preparation.
With Wesley Sneijder leading the way offensively, the Dutch are sure to threaten France in the final third. However, playing in the French capital, you can expect an inspired effort from Les Bleus. Not to mention the Dutch will be without a banged-up Arjen Robben.
In the end, assuming that both Deschamps and van Gaal look to give their less experienced players some crucial time on the pitch, a draw seems almost inevitable.
France 1, Netherlands 1
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