With the 2014 FIFA World Cup firmly underway, we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that centre on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.
Sunday continues with France vs. Honduras: teams who were ranked, pre-tournament, 11th and 32nd, respectively.
How France Will Shape Up
France will employ a 4-3-3 formation for the finals, staying true to a similar shape that saw them through the playoffs against Ukraine.
Hugo Lloris and Laurent Koscielny will anchor the line, with Patrice Evra set for left-back and the other two spots open to debate. Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Debuchy, Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane are all fighting for a chance to shine.
The midfield is where the magic happens, and with Franck Ribery out of due to injury, creativity, power and verticality from the centre takes on a new level of importance.
Watch out for Blaise Matuidi bombing forward and making things happen, while Paul Pogba is the firecracker, capable of anything.
How Honduras Will Shape Up
Luis Fernando Suarez would play two strikers up front if he could, but facing up against a far superior French outfit, he'll likely relent to one.
Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson usually both feature, but one could well drop out of the XI—or drop wide in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1—to make room for three central midfielders to clog the middle.
The defensive line is set and will play deep, yet aggressive (borderline vicious) football; the protection layer ahead of them built to destroy and break rather than pass or caress.
One player to look out for is Andy Najar, a Jupiler Pro League youth talent who brings a semblance of creativity to the side.
2 Tactical Clashes
1. Can You Break Us Down?
Honduras have one proviso for the game ahead: Close the space, mark the dangermen and play stubborn, careful football.
They'll likely be restricted to counter-attacks and sit very deep in their half, with only Emilio Izaguirre, Roger Espinoza and one of Bengtson or Costly permitted to run with the ball.
The French know this, and if Didier Deschamps is wise, he'll have had his side training in the final 25 yards for most of the sessions building up to this game.
With no Ribery to conjure something out of nothing, who can step up and provide the magic?
2. Centre-Back Conundrum
Koscielny, Sakho and Varane are all fighting for a role in Deschamps' central defensive setup, and the coach will be looking for a deciding factor to help pick between them.
With Honduras setting up deep, set pieces could become vitally important, and in this essence, Sakho is the undeniable pick alongside the likely incumbent Koscielny.
That's harsh on Varane who's been magnificent in his short career to date, but his defensive aptitude will hardly be necessary here.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.
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