Sports Mole previews Monday’s Nations League clash between France and Croatia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Reigning world champions France will aim to lift themselves off the foot of the League A Group 1 table in the UEFA Nations League when they welcome Croatia to the Stade de France on Monday night.
Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw by Austria on Friday night, while Zlatko Dalic‘s side finally got off the mark by beating Denmark 1-0.
Whether it is tiredness from a long and gruelling domestic season or something deeper within Didier Deschamps‘s ranks, it is simply not clicking for France at the moment, and they are at risk of ending the month without a win from four Nations League matches.
Zinedine Zidane‘s continued links with Paris Saint-Germain is not music to the ears of Bleus fans who feel a change is needed in the hotseat, as their side could only muster one point from a 1-1 draw with Austria last time out, with Kylian Mbappe coming off the bench to cancel out Andreas Weimann‘s opener.
Taking just two points from the first nine on offer leaves the world and Nations League champions down in fourth place, which would signal a highly unexpected relegation to League B should their fortunes not improve, not to mention depleting the morale levels before defending their world title.
In spite of their recent defensive woes and lack of ruthlessness, France have at least now scored in each of their last 23 matches in all competitions and can rise above their upcoming opponents with a much-needed triumph at the Stade de France.
A less-than-100% fit Mbappe has urged his side to prepare for one final push before sun, sea and sand comes calling for their holidays, but their upcoming opponents will be in no mood to see their momentum suffer an immediate hit.
Croatia boasted an identical winless record to that of France before their journey to Copenhagen, and it took a pair of timely midfield alterations to change the course of the game in the Chequered Ones’ favour, with Denmark ultimately succumbing to a 1-0 loss.
Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric‘s introductions breathed new life into the Croatia XI, and Mario Pasalic would strike the all-important winner in the 69th minute of a game that Dalic felt his side “really deserved” to come out on top in.
The 2018 World Cup runners-up are now sitting pretty in third place in the section but will drop back into the relegation spot with defeat in Saint-Denis, but they have already held France to one stalemate this month and ought to fancy their chances of doing at least the same again.
Dalic oversaw a dampening 3-0 defeat to Austria earlier this month, but that is Croatia’s only loss from their last 12 in all tournaments since bowing out of Euro 2020, and each of the visitors’ last four away matches have ended in victory.
France Nations League form:
France form (all competitions):
Croatia Nations League form:
Croatia form (all competitions):
Deschamps was counting his lucky stars that Mbappe was fit enough for 30 minutes of action against Austria, while N’Golo Kante has left the camp due to a knee injury alongside Lucas Hernandez, whose partner is about to give birth.
Mbappe could now be ready to take his place in the starting lineup – albeit maybe not for the full 90 minutes – and a well-rested Wissam Ben Yedder should also push for some national team action.
Presnel Kimpembe, Matteo Guendouzi and Christopher Nkunku can also feel optimistic about their chances of starting this one, with Ibrahima Konate potentially making way after being handed his debut on Friday night.
Meanwhile, Croatia suffered no further injury concerns in Copenhagen after losing Ivan Perisic and Josko Gvardiol already this month, but left-backs Borna Barisic and Borna Sosa were both absent on Friday.
Josip Juranovic could therefore hold the fort on the left-hand side of the backline again, while 98-cap Domagoj Vida and Duje Caleta-Car will expect recalls in the heart of defence despite Croatia’s clean sheet last time out.
Modric and Kovacic also ought to be back from the off, and the same can potentially be said for Ante Budimir as he battles with Andrej Kramaric for striker supremacy.
France possible starting lineup:
Maignan; Kounde, Saliba, Kimpembe; Clauss, Guendouzi, Tchouameni, T. Hernandez; Nkunku; Mbappe, Ben Yedder
Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livakovic; Stanisic, Vida, Caleta-Car, Juranovic; Modric, Kovacic; Vlasic, Pasalic, Orsic; Kramaric
We say: France 1-0 Croatia
With jellied legs possibly forcing Dalic to disrupt the defensive harmony more than he would have wanted, a refreshed set of French attacking options can finally help Les Bleus post their first win in the group at the fourth attempt.
Deschamps’s side will still be in for a rough ride with Modric and Kovacic dictating play from the middle, but Croatia’s frontline is not all that fear-inducing.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.