France are unbeaten in seven meetings with Poland, dating back 40 years, although, their sole World Cup meeting did go the Poles way, prevailing 3-2 in the third-place play-off at Spain ‘82. This time round, the reigning world champions come into this tie as overwhelming favourites to advance. Les Bleus beat both Australia and Denmark in the group phase, so already had top spot, pretty much, sown up, allowing Didier Deschamps to field a reserve XI against Tunisia. His team were beaten 1-0 in that game, suggesting that, perhaps, Deschamps doesn’t have quite as much squad depth as he might like.
Nevertheless, France have won nine of their last 11 knockout games, reaching a Euros final and winning both the Nations League and the World Cup in this period. Their only such defeats in the last eight years have come against Portugal in extra time and at the hands of Switzerland, the latter on penalties. In fact, since 2004, France have only lost two knockout matches in 90 minutes, these against Spain in 2012 and Germany two summers later. So, expect the reigning and defending world champions to come through this one relatively easily. The Eagles only group stage win came over Saudi Arabia, needing Wojciech Szczęsny to save a penalty before Robert Lewandowski was presented with a late gift.
In the end, Czesław Michniewicz’s team qualified at Mexico’s expense on goal difference, but were only going through on disciplinary points, the seventh tie-breaker, for long periods of a nervy final night. This is the first time since Mexico ‘86 they’ve reached the round of 16, with Poland’s only knockout win, at any tournament, in the last four decades coming over Switzerland in a shootout at Euro 2016. So far, Poland have recorded an xG figure of just 2.8 across three games, around a third of which is due to the fact they were awarded but missed a penalty against Mexico. Overall, having mustered just five shots on target, including none against Argentina, they’re unlikely to pose too much of an attacking threat here.
Goalscorer tip of the day
Poland’s defence, specifically Kamil Glik, love to defend crosses, which may stifle Olivier Giroud’s attempts to break Thierry Henry’s French goal-scoring record. This makes Kylian Mbappé, who’s already scored three times in just two starts, France’s primary threat, if he wasn’t already. The PSG forward looked on top form against Denmark, netting twice, so he’ll be confident of adding to his seven World Cup goals here. Hence, Kylian Mbappe, Lewandowski and Giroud should put the ball at the back of the net.
Things To Know
1. This will be the second meeting between France and Poland at the World Cup, with their previous one coming in the third-place play-off match in the 1982 tournament – a 3-2 win for Poland.
2. France are unbeaten in their last seven meetings with Poland across all competitions (W3 D4), with their last defeat against them being in a friendly in August 1982 (0-4). Les Bleus have kept a clean sheet in each of the last three in this run, all of which have been since the turn of the millennium.
3. France have become the first reigning World Cup champion to reach the knockout stages since Brazil in 2006. The last reigning champion to go out at the Round of 16 stage were Italy in 1986, who lost 2-0 to France.
4. This will be Poland’s first match in the knockout stages of a World Cup tournament since 1986, when they lost 0-4 to Brazil in the round of 16. Their last win at the World Cup outside of the group stage did come against France, however, in their 3-2 win in the third-place play-off in 1982.
5. Since the Round of 16 was introduced in the 1986 World Cup, France have appeared at this stage on five occasions and progressed from all five ties (1986, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018). The only other nations to appear at this stage more than once and progress each time are Germany (8/8) and Croatia (2/2).
We will be predicting a 2-1 win in France favour. Lewan, Mbappe and Giroud all scores.