Bulgaria play host to France in Saturday’s World Cup qualifier at the Vasil Levski National Stadium. Petar Hubchev’s side are currently placed fourth in Group A with 13 points, and they are in need of a minor miracle if they are to progress to their first World Cup finals since 1998. Meanwhile, Euro 2016 finalists France are leading the standings with 17 points, but they will be bitterly disappointed with their goalless draw against Luxembourg last time around.
The earlier fixture in the qualifier went in France’s favour by a 4-1 scoreline. Mihail Aleksandrov opened the scoring for Bulgaria in the 6th minute via a penalty kick, and they could not hold the relentless Les Bleus pressure with Kevin Gameiro (brace), Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet finding the scoresheet.
Players to watch for:
Ivelin Popov – Bulgaria: The most experienced player in the Bulgarian ranks. The 29-year-old kept Bulgaria’s minute World Cup hopes alive back in August after he provided two assists in an impressive 3-2 win over Sweden. Bulgaria have remained unbeaten at home in the qualifiers, and they will hope to utilise Popov’s creativity from the right wing against a star-studded France squad.
Antoine Griezmann – France: There are not many forwards in world football who earn more attention than Griezmann nowadays. The France international has been linked with an Atletico Madrid exit over the past year, and this has had no impact on his performance for the national team. Griezmann has notched just three goals in eight qualifying games to date, but his linkup play with Olivier Giroud provides an outlet for other teammates to shine.
Didier Deschamps is sure to hand a stern warning to his frontmen after the 0-0 draw versus Luxembourg. France are just a solitary point ahead of Sweden in the qualification phase, and nothing less than a win will do if they are to solidify their chances of reaching next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Bulgaria 1-2 France
Image – Getty