France welcome Belgium to the Stade de France on Sunday for something of a local derby, even if it is only supposed to be a friendly.
Marc Wilmots’ men have moved up to second place in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, while Didier Deschamps’ side are back into the top 10 at No. 9.
Although there is nothing to play for, two of Europe’s most talented sides should produce an exciting spectacle.
Date: Sunday, June 7
Time: 8 p.m. BST (9 p.m. CET)/3 p.m. ET
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
TV Info: TF1 (France)
Live Stream: ESPN 3 and Deportes (USA)
France and Belgium meet as the 2016 UEFA European Championship hosts continue their preparations for the tournament on home soil with the latest in a line of friendly clashes.
Les Diables Rouges are currently in the process of qualifying for the event and lead Group B on goal difference ahead of Wales. Wilmots’ side follow up the France match with a crucial qualifier away at second-placed Wales five days later.
The game is a good chance for both coaches to experiment with their sides a bit. Les Bleus are missing Juventus’ Paul Pogba and Patrice Evra because of the UEFA Champions League final, while Belgium are without captain Vincent Kompany, who is suspended against the Welsh.
Stade Rennais’ Paul-Georges Ntep could make his senior debut for France after being called up by Deschamps, while Olivier Giroud should get a rare chance to lead the team in attack with Karim Benzema out injured.
Form Lines (last 5 results in all competitions)
W. 2-0 vs. Denmark (friendly)
L. 1-3 vs. Brazil (friendly)
W. 1-0 vs. Sweden (friendly)
D. 1-1 vs. Albania (friendly)
W. 0-3 vs. Armenia (friendly)
W. 0-1 vs. Israel (Euro 2016 qualifiers)
W. 5-0 vs. Cyprus (Euro 2016 qualifiers)
D. 0-0 vs. Wales (Euro 2016 qualifiers)
W. 3-1 vs. Iceland (friendly)
D. 1-1 vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina (Euro 2016 qualifiers)
Player to Watch Per Side
Although he could not replicate his impressive early-season form in the second half of the campaign with Rennes, Ntep potentially making his France debut is an exciting prospect.
Deschamps’ men have plenty of talented players to keep an eye on this Sunday, but like Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette before him, Ntep will almost certainly be the main focus of attention as the new face in camp.
The lightning-fast 22-year-old will be an interesting option to have on the left wing, and his nine goals and six assists in the Ligue 1 season just finished hint at his potential.
If Ntep can impress against Belgium and Albania—as well as starting the next campaign strongly, wherever that may be—then the Rennes man could play his way into Deschamps’ Euro 2016 plans.
In the absence of both Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen, the 24-year-old will skipper Les Diables Rouges both in Paris and then in Cardiff.
Fresh from being named Premier League Player of the Season, Hazard will be keen to finish the 2014-15 campaign in style and help his Belgium side to victory over Wales.
The France clash will be good preparation for this crunch encounter, and the Belgians will look to the former Lille OSC man for inspiration. Will he be able to handle the pressure that comes with the captain’s armband?
The decisive battle in this game could well be that between France’s Raphael Varane and Belgium’s Christian Benteke.
Under Deschamps, the 22-year-old Frenchman has developed into an integral part of Les Bleus' starting XI and has even featured as captain on a number of occasions.
It will be up to Varane to try to shackle the physical presence of a reinvigorated Benteke, who was crucial in keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth.
The Belgian will be looking to impress with a potential summer transfer at stake, so Varane will have to be at his best in order to keep the striker at bay.
Calm and composed, Varane’s battle against Benteke’s physicality should be just one of a number of interesting duels to keep an eye on at the Stade de France.
Odds (Per OddsChecker)