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World Cup qualifier [Preview]: France vs Netherlands

France play hosts to the Netherlands in a highly-anticipated World Cup qualifier at Stade de France on Thursday. Didier Deschamps’ side suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat to Sweden back in June, and this has seen them drop to second in their group behind the Blågult. Meanwhile, the Netherlands clinched a convincing 5-0 victory over Luxembourg in their last outing, and this has moved them within three points of both Sweden and France with four games left in the group phase.

Going by recent form, Les Bleus are deemed favourites to clinch automatic qualification, but the Dutch have everything to lose as a defeat could end their prospect of claiming the second place, which could potentially assure them a playoff spot.

Players to watch out for:

Olivier Giroud – France: The 30-year-old has adapted fairly well alongside Antoine Griezmann up front. Though he is nowhere a regular at Arsenal, the Frenchman continues to get on the scoresheet for France with six goals in just five outings in the calendar year. Giroud notched a stellar of a volley in the defeat to Sweden in June, and Deschamps would demand more of the same versus the Dutch.

Wesley Sneijder – Netherlands: The country’s all-time appearance holder played a key role alongside fellow veteran Arjen Robben in the previous outing. The pair have been joined by Robin van Persie in the squad, and their experience could be key to turning over a France side, which are bolstered by loads of young talent. The 33-year-old has 31 goals in 131 caps to date.

Prediction:

Considering the bundle of promising talent from both sides, it could be an open game with Les Bleus likely to come up triumphs with the additional flair. Giroud continues to be a huge influence while holding up play and this could bring the likes of Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe into potential goalscoring positions.

France 3-1 Netherlands

Image – Creative Commons

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