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France v Poland Preview: Can champions click again after Tunisian setback?

France know as well anyone that this World Cup is throwing up shocks and will be determined to avoid another one when they take on Poland in the round of 16.

The reigning champions were stunned by Tunisia on Wednesday night, going down 1-0, though with qualification to the knockout stages having already been secured.

And that will lift the spirits of Poland who need to show real improvement after limping into the knockouts.

What: France v Poland, World Cup
Where: Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar
When: 15:00, Sunday 4th December
How to watch: BBC1
Odds: France 2/7, Poland 12/1, Draw 4/1

Do the tepid Poles have a trump card to play?

Qualifying for the round of 16 for the first time since 1986 is cause for celebration in Poland, but few teams went into the knockout stages with quite so many questions to answer.

Poland are an established European country of some footballing repute, yet the fact they are 12/1 to beat a French side who have just been beaten by Tunisia tells you everything you need to know.

The Poles are not looking good in Qatar. They have failed to score in both matches against Mexico and Argentina, their only win a hard-earned 2-0 success over Saudi Arabia where they had to ride their luck.

There was actually a point during their loss to Argentina that they were desperately trying not to concede another goal while also not collecting a yellow card which would have acted as a qualification tie-break had the Saudis not scored late against Mexico.

And when qualification for the last 16 comes down to a side's good discipline rather than good football, you know you're in trouble.

Lewandowski needs help if Poland are to progress

Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz insists the whole country is smiling because they've finally qualified for the back end of a World Cup – but he accepts things need to change if they are to get the better of 2/7 shots France.

"If our team had possession Lewandowski would have had five goals," moaned Michniewicz, and the Barcelona striker's phenomenal stats back up that claim. Give him a sniff and he usually scores.

Yet incredibly, and down solely to the fact that he isn't getting any service, Poland's record goalscorer is an eye-catching 11/1 to open the scoring at Al Thumama against the defending champions.

Poland are creating so little that Lewandowski has looked utterly isolated and against the best side they've played yet, you do wonder if that can change.

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Tunisia wake-up call a blessing for champs

France go into the knockout stage bruised slightly by a 1-0 defeat by Tunisia, a defeat that tarnished an otherwise excellent group campaign though they still topped their section.

Les Bleus weren't awful – they had 66 per-cent possession, twice as many shots as the North Africans and had an Antoine Griezmann effort ruled out for offside – but changing nine players was a gamble that basically didn't come off.

It proved to coach Didier Deschamps that he can ill-afford to be without the likes of Dayot Upamecano, Adrien Rabiot, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud and, of course, Kylian Mbappe.

Before that France – and in particular Mbappe – had looked sublime in a 4-1 thrashing of Australia and 2-1 win over Denmark. Mbappe scored in both games, three goals in total, and is 21/20 to score at any time against the Poles.

And starring in a full-strength France side rather than the reserves, France should be back on it and will be hard to beat.

Goals could well be scarce at Al Thumama

Neutrals – or France backers – would doubtless love to see the champions turn on the style. Four years ago at this stage, you may recall, they were involved in an epic 4-3 win over Argentina with Mbappe scoring twice.

But Poland's three matches in Group C produced the grand total of just four goals, all three copping for under 2.5 backers. It's 10/11 there are under 2.5 on Sunday.

And while it's admittedly 11 years since these countries last crossed paths on the international stage, their last five meetings going back to 1994 have produced just four goals.

Poland have been all about a defensive mindset so far and it's hard to imagine them taking the shackles off, or seeing who could do it anyway. If you offered them a penalty shootout before kick-off, Michniewicz would probably snap your hand off.

Poland to win on penalties, incidentally, is an 18/1 chance.

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