France begin their World Cup 2014 preparation with a friendly against Norway at the Stade de France on Tuesday night, where they’ll be looking to lay the foundations to banish the painful memories of recent major tournaments.
The French endured a nightmare campaign in the last World Cup in South Africa, with off-field scandals ruining what could have been a fruitful tournament for the star-studded nation.
However, they’re much better prepared this time around, and under the guidance of 1998 World Cup-winning captain Didier Deschamps, they’ll be looking to roll back the years in Brazil.
Confidence will be key heading into the finals, making Norway’s visit to Paris that little bit more important.
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Date: Tuesday, May 27
Time: 8 p.m. BST/3 p.m. ET
TV Info: BT Sport 1 (UK only)
Live Stream: BT Sport Website
France Enjoying Strong Form
With Tuesday’s fixture preceding friendlies against Paraguay and Jamaica, three wins from three will see France head into World Cup 2014 having lost just one of their previous 11 matches.
That loss came against Ukraine in the World Cup qualification play-offs in Kiev, though they turned around the 2-0 deficit in emphatic style to book their place in Brazil.
They've since disposed of the Netherlands by a modest 2-0 scoreline in a friendly in March and are finally showing the kind of unity that made them the world’s best 16 years ago.
Speaking at a recent news conference, Tottenham Hotspur star and France captain Hugo Lloris said that everything is going well in the French camp—reported via Reuters:
“I think we have to continue with our dynamic. Let’s stay on this track. We showed a good image against the Netherlands."
Indeed, France completely outplayed the highly rated Dutch outfit, and if they continue to produce such performances then their Group E opponents Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador will stand very little chance in stopping Deschamps’ freight train.
Norway, meanwhile, are also looking to build momentum, but for a very different cause.
Per-Mathias Hogmo’s side have shown recent signs of promise and will look to upset the odds in Paris on Tuesday to outline their credentials as Euro 2016 qualification candidates.
Upon his appointment to the Norway hot seat, Hogmo outlined his goals as the nation’s manager—per UEFA.com:
“I am extremely motivated. I see myself as an innovator and I will look to put my stamp on how Norway play. My first goal will be to qualify for UEFA Euro 2016.”
Hogmo’s stamp has seen the Norwegians improve drastically of late, with a win over Moldova and an impressive draw away to the Czech Republic being the notable results.
With their European Championship qualification campaign getting underway against Italy in September, Norway need as much experience as they can get against the world’s elite, starting with Tuesday’s clash against France.
Key Stats and Prediction
The last time these sides met in a friendly was back in 2010, when Norway won 2-1 in Oslo courtesy of an Erik Huseklepp brace.
France have won their last four matches at home without conceding a goal, seeing off Australia, Finland, Ukraine and the Netherlands during that run.
In that spell, the French have scored 14 goals, an average of 3.5 per game.
Meanwhile, Norway have conceded 15 goals in their last six away international matches, losing four times.
The Norwegians have qualified for a European Championship campaign just once in their history—back in 2000, where France were crowned champions.
Though Norway have showed real signs of improvement since Hogmo’s appointment, the French may just be too strong for them.
With some of the best players in the world at Deschamps’ disposal, it’s looking like an easy night in the office for France.
Prediction: France 3-0 Norway