France could qualify from Europe's Group A for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Saturday if things go their way, but they'll have to beat Bulgaria in Sofia and hope for an upset in one of the other matches.
Les Bleus currently lead Sweden by one point and the Netherlands by four―if the Swedes suffer an unlikely loss at home against Luxembourg, France can qualify with a win.
The more likely scenario sees Les Bleus clinch their spot on the final matchday against Belarus, when the Swedes play the Netherlands. Either way, beating Bulgaria is crucial to the team qualifying.
Date: Saturday, October 7
Time: 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia
Mohammed Ali @mohammedali_93
France squad in crucial WCQ away to Bulgaria, home to Belarus - no Martial - Payet returns, Sissoko in - Thauvin, Coman keep spot. https://t.co/jLjyhgunmf2017-9-28 12:07:49
Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona also isn't in the squad due to injury, but with the likes of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, there's plenty of firepower for Les Bleus.
Bulgaria have already conceded 17 goals in qualifying, tied with Luxembourg for the most in Group A. The team has an outside chance at qualifying and will visit football minnows Luxembourg on the final matchday, but they'll need a lot of things to go their way just to make the play-offs.
Group A has been tight so far, and Les Bleus' shock draw against Luxembourg on the previous matchday has set up an exciting finale. Sweden have bounced back after their unexpected loss in Bulgaria, and the Netherlands are still very much alive, despite their horrendous form.
The Dutch and Swedes' meeting on the final matchday is a major advantage for France moving forward―at least one of the two will drop points. But for now, Les Bleus have to focus on themselves and not look past the initial hurdle in Sofia.
Bulgaria beat Sweden at home in a wild affair and also kept the three points in Sofia against the Netherlands. Luxembourg came close to earning a draw on the opening matchday, but all in all, the Bulgarians have been good at home.
Georgi Kostadinov has been the main danger man with three goals in this qualifying cycle, and Ivelin Popov is the most experienced forward in the squad. Keeping a close eye on those two will be key, especially now that Aleksandar Tonev has dropped out of the selection with injury concerns.
Prediction: Bulgaria's solid home form continues, and Group A goes down to the final matchday. Bulgaria 1-1 France