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Finland - France Preview: Deschamps' men commence road to Brazil boasting formidable record against hosts
The 1998 champions begin their quest for a second world title against Mixu Paatelainen's side aiming for a victory, though will be wary of Spain in a tricky Group I
By Mohammed Ali
Toivio, Pasanen, Moisander, Arkivou
Ring, R Eremenko, Sparv,
Reveilliere, Sakho, Yanga-Mbiwa, Evra
Diaby, Cabaye, Mavuba,
Menez, Benzema, Ribery
Mixu Paatelainen commences his first full qualifying campaign as coach of Finland, but will be wary of the enormous task ahead with the nation placed in Group I of qualifying, alongside 1998 and 2010 world champions France and Spain.
Notable faces and key players for the Nordic nation include Borussia Monchengladbach's Alexander Ring, in line for his 10th cap on Friday, alongside the Eremenko brothers of Rubin Kazan. The Eagles' Euro 2012 qualifying performance started badly, with three consecutive defeats.
Meanwhile, Didier Deschamps has a lengthy injury list to contend with ahead of his first competitive game in charge of his country, with the likes of Mathieu Debuchy and Bacary Sagna yet to maintain full fitness in the 2012-13 season.
The former Marseille boss confirmed on Thursday that Olivier Giroud will not play any part in Friday's encouter, with the possibility deemed too risky by the 43-year-old. Instead, France are likely to revert to a 4-3-3 with Karim Benzema flanked by Jeremy Menez and Franck Ribery.
Deschamps also revealed that his centre-back pairing would be Mamadou Sakho and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, with Laurent Koscielny still yet to start a game since the Euro 2012 exit to Spain in June.
Furthermore, Patrice Evra and Anthony Reveilliere are set to be preferred to both Gael Clichy and Christophe Jallet, whilst Abou Diaby is also in line for a starting berth, after an impressive start to his campaign.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Finland were unbeaten in their last four World Cup qualifiers, and have only lost one of their last five at home.
- Nevertheless, the Nordic nation succumbed to defeat in their last two qualifying matches for Euro 2012, but beat Turkey 3-2 in May.
- The national team are ranked 96th in the world by Fifa, their worst ever placing, after slipping down 24 positions - the second most of any nation in September.
- Finland's last home game against France ended in a 1-0 defeat in an international friendly in 1998.
- Didier Deschamps' reign as France coach began with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay.
- Les Bleus are ranked 15th in the world, slipping a place in the latest list.
- France have never lost against Finland in international encounters.
- The Gallic nation last lost a qualifier two years ago this week, going down to Belarus at home in their first Euro 2012 encounter. They face Belarus on Tuesday.
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Top 3 Predictions
Finland 0-2 France
- 15.93 %
Finland 1-2 France
- 9.71 %
Finland 1-3 France
- 9.71 %
|World Cup Qualifying - UEFA (WCQ)||Sep 7, 2012||Finland 0 - France 1|
|Mar 26, 2013||Luxembourg 0 - Finland 3||FR|
|Mar 22, 2013||Spain 1 - Finland 1||WCQ|
|Feb 6, 2013||Israel 2 - Finland 1||FR|
|Jan 26, 2013||Sweden 3 - Finland 0||FR|
|Jan 23, 2013||Thailand 1 - Finland 3||FR|
|-||Alexei Jr. Eremenko||Midfielder|
|-||Henrik Daniel Sjolund|
|-||Rio Antonio Mavuba|
The Borussia Monchengladbach player has already started the season well for the Bundesliga side, and will want to continue that form into his nation's qualifying campaign for the World Cup. Ring scored in the Champions League defeat to Dynamo Kiev last month, and touted as a future star of Finnish football. A comfortable player on the ball, Ring is able to instigate opportunities for the attackers, though will have to be wary of Rio Mavuba in what will be a packed midfield on Friday evening.
The young defender has improved dramatically since the end of last season, where the centre-back and former Paris Saint-Germain captain was demoted to the bench after a continued lack of decent performances. But nevertheless, with Thiago Silva providing stiff competition, Sakho knows he needs to up his game and fulfil his potential. Tipped by many to be a mainstay in the France team for years, a good performance on Friday should see him attempt to achieve that goal.
France's strong qualifying campaign under Laurent Blanc spoke volumes and with 23 games unbeaten until their Euro 2012 exit it proved a major testament to the current squad. It is Deschamps' job to emulate that, and with Spain lurking in their group, (who will also not feature this weekend), a slip-up against Finland would already have them at the back foot. Nevertheless, a comfortable victory for France should be on the cards.
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed