France seeks chance to reassert authority in World Cup qualifier against Finland
France entertain Finland on Tuesday night in their 2022 World Cup qualifier with the aim of maintaining control of Group D and ending an appalling sequence of results.
Didier Deschamps’ world champions have played out five successive draws since beating Germany at the European championships in June.
One of them - the 3-3 stalemate that led to the penalty shootout elimination in the last 16 against Switzerland - came after they were 3-1 up.
That was the last time the side containing internationally acclaimed strikers such as Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema scored three goals.
“I think there's a lack of confidence ... that's obvious," said France skipper Hugo Lloris ahead of the match at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon.
"We had a setback at the Euro and this elimination hurt us. Are we over it? Apparently not. But this is not the time to give up. We have to move forward and regain our confidence because we don't want to be under even more pressure in November than we are now.”
France lead their pool with nine points from their five games. Finland lie second on five points after three matches. Ukraine also have five points but have played five times.
Victory on Tuesday night would virtually assure France of at least a place in the play-offs ahead of the final two qualifiers against Kazakhstan on 13 November and Finland three days later.
“It has been a period in which we haven’t had that much success,” said Deschamps.
“In times like these, I work even harder and am more determined. I’m going to do everything to reverse this trend.”
Finland played in their first major international tournament at last summer’s European championships.
In November 2020 - as one of the warm-ups for the event - they beat France 2-0 in a friendly at the Stade de France.
“We have very good memories of the game,” said Finland boss Markku Kanerva.
“We played well and had a plan that worked well. We would obviously like to repeat that miracle, it won't be easy but we have a lot of confidence in ourselves.”
A polar opposite to the hosts who have also been hit by injuries to star striker Kylian Mbappé as well as the imperious midfield general N’Golo Kanté.
“Despite some injuries, there are still many quality players in the France team,” Kanerva added.
“France have a lot of options to replace such players, a big squad overall and they will be playing at home. We will see what happens.”
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe