International Friendly: France vs Colombia – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Two of the quarterfinalists from the 2014 World Cup do battle in Paris, three months ahead of the tournament in Russia this summer.
20:00 GMT, Friday 23rd March, Stade De France (Paris, France)
One of the most mouth-watering ties from the international break takes place in Paris, as France meet fellow 2014 World Cup quarterfinalists Colombia.
Both sides have enjoyed success since, with France reaching the final of Euro 2016 and Colombia finishing third at the 2016 Copa America. There is an impression that both sides are still a touch under-cooked to challenge in Russia this summer however, so a win in Paris would provide belief they can go far in the World Cup finals.
Last time out
Germany 2-2 France (International friendly)
One of few highlights from the stale international friendlies in November, Germany and France provided the entertainment in Cologne. France deserved the win after repeatedly cutting open the Germany defence, but they let themselves exposed too often to see out the result.
Some brilliance on the left flank found Anthony Martial to sell his defender to tee up Alexandre Lacazette to open the scoring.
France should have killed off their opponents, but some missed chances proved costly as Timo Werner made no mistake when one-on-one.
Antonio Rudiger charged out of defence leaving Arsenal striker Lacazette in acres of space to stroke beyond Kevin Trapp and give France the lead once again.
Les Bleus looked to have picked up a superb victory over the world champions, but Lars Stindl found enough space just inside the box to score at the post to steal a draw for the Germans.
China 0-4 Colombia (International friendly)
It was far more comfortable for Colombia in Chongqing, dispatching a desperate China. Despite the growth in the Chinese Super League, the gap the national team holds from the world’s best is a concern.
Some neat work in the box gave Felipe Pardo some room to fire into the bottom corner at the far post early on, and after some toing and froing for the majority of the game, Colombia put their opponents to the sword in the final 30 minutes.
Carlos Bacca made no mistake when Los Cafeteros directly counter-attacked after Carlos Sanchez one the ball midfield, and Miguel Borja scored the goal of the game when the ball sat up beautifully on the volley, although the goalkeeper should have done better.
Borja added a second to round off the result when teed up to tap into an empty net in injury time.
Yes, they were against poor opposition, but to win at a canter without talisman James Rodriguez would have buoyed Jose Pekerman no end.
Alexandre Lacazette and Benjamin Mendy are the only absentees for France, meaning Didier Deschamps can field a full-strength team against Colombia.
Juan Cuadrado is the big name missing from the Colombia squad, but he is expected back from injury next month, so fingers will be crossed he finds full fitness before the World Cup.
Key battle: Djibril Sidibe (France) vs James Rodriguez (Colombia)
It’s a toss-up for the right back spot for France between Djibril Sidibe and utility man Benjamin Pavard.
Whoever it is will go up against Colombia’s danger man James Rodriguez. After a settling in period at new club Bayern Munich, the 26-year-old has become a prominent for the Bundesliga champions, scoring four goals and assisting a further nine.
Rodriguez was the star of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and he will play a massive part in how his nation perform this summer in Russia.
Sidibe has been in useful form himself for club side Monaco, going unbeaten in the league since the start of December and reaching the Coupe de la Ligue final.
If both players bring their best, it will be a fantastic contest on the flank, but if Sidibe can dampen his opponent’s impact on the tie, France will see half the defensive task done.
French fluidity or focal point?
Didier Deschamps is blessed with attacking options. The French coach has the luxury of leaving out Nabil Fekir, Dimitri Payet, and Kevin Gameiro, and there’s a case that the unavailable Alexandre Lacazette and Karim Benzema wouldn’t even make the cut.
The big question for Deschamps is whether to go with a conventional number nine, or have a fluid, mobile front three.
He is a fan of Olivier Giroud, and with runners from midfield to come in the form of Paul Pogba and Adrien Rabiot it might make more sense to go with the new Chelsea boy in attack.
Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe however like to have a licence to roam if they play on the flanks and they could feel restricted if Giroud leads the line.
With Anthony Martial, Ousmane Dembele and in form pairing Wissam Ben Yedder and Florian Thauvin all possible options, head coach Deschamps has a selection headache for the friendly against Colombia, let alone his squad for the World Cup.
Pogba’s perfect partner
The difficulty at Manchester United for Paul Pogba is that he cannot put his full creative intent in Jose Mourinho’s discipline system with other attacking players in the team.
With France holding even more attacking talent than Manchester United, at first thought you can’t see his problems disappearing at international level.
That said, the Red Devils do not have N’Golo Kante. The little midfielder performs the defensive duty of two players, making countless tackles and interceptions.
Pogba will be itching to play alongside the Chelsea star, and with either Adrien Rabiot or Corentin Tolisso set to perform the box-to-box role for Les Bleus, Pogba can join up with French front three.
We could see the £90 million man reborn in Paris of Friday night.
A different duty for El Diez
Jose Pekerman has utilised James Rodriguez, perhaps surprisingly, on the left-hand side of midfield four. This allows the coach to play two star strikers, Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca, as well as the pacey Juan Cuadrado wide on the right.
We are more used to seeing Rodriguez as an attacking midfielder, wide on the right or surging forward in a midfield three, but Pekerman wants his wide players to play diagonals and swing balls into the box for his powerful forwards.
With Cuadrado out injured, Rodriguez could be played on the right-hand side, where he can come inside on his left foot and have a greater impact, but if the coach seeks continuity, he may well keep his prize asset on the left.
Prediction: France 2-0 Colombia
Two great sides going to head-to-head, but with home advantage and a more prepared side, France should pick up the victory. How Colombia’s young defensive pairing of Yerry Mina and Davinson Sanchez deal with France’s glittering attack will dictate the outcome of the game.
Will either of these nations challenge at the World Cup? Let us know in the comments section below.