Seeking to maintain their unbeaten start to World Cup 2022 qualifying, France play host to Bosnia-Herzegovina at Strasbourg’s Stade de la Meinau on Wednesday evening.
Les Bleus resume action following a dismal last-16 exit at Euro 2020, while Bosnia are winless in their first two matches of Group D during the road to Qatar.
The decision to go with an unfamiliar back three against Switzerland came back to bite Didier Deschamps in the last 16 of the European Championships, with the Bleus manager seeing his side progress from the group of death as winners with five points from clashes with Germany, Portugal and Hungary.
Despite seemingly having the tie wrapped up thanks to Karim Benzema’s brace and Paul Pogba’s cracker after Haris Seferovic had drawn first blood, France allowed the Swiss to produce a storming comeback in the final 10 minutes during a 3-3 stalemate, and Yann Sommer would proceed to save from none other than Kylian Mbappe in the shootout to send the World Cup holders packing.
Having failed to add a third continental crown to their medal haul, France – who only actually managed to win one game at the tournament – will now endeavour to avoid any slip-ups in World Cup qualifying, and they have managed to do so thus far.
While a 1-1 draw with Ukraine during the opening game did not represent a morale-boosting result, Deschamps’s side saw off Kazakhstan 2-0 before a 1-0 success over Bosnia back in March – results which have seen them establish a healthy four-point lead at the top of the pile in Group D.
Ukraine and Finland – whom France surprisingly lost to during a November friendly – also lie in wait for Les Bleus during September’s fixtures, but the chance to hit the 10-point mark after four games is not one that Deschamps will allow his players to pass up.
Bosnia-Herzegovina may still harbour ambitions of a famous triumph over the world champions, but for a side who have not won any fixture – competitive or non-competitive – since November 2019, the prospects of a shock are extremely slim.
Following the departure of Dusan Bajevic after an ill-fated eight-game winless period, Ivaylo Petev has managed to secure draws against Montenegro, Costa Rica and Finland, but the long and arduous wait for victory continues for the world’s 58th-ranked nation.
Bajevic’s winless streak included defeat to Northern Ireland on penalties in the Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs, meaning that their bid to reach the continental competition for the first time as an independent nation once again ended in failure, and a 2-2 stalemate with Finland represents their only point of World Cup Qualifying so far.
June’s friendlies saw Bosnia and Montenegro play out a goalless draw before Denmark eased to a 2-0 success over Petev’s side, who have now failed to score in four consecutive games under his tutelage, but Edin Dzeko has hit the ground running at Inter Milan and will hope to keep that momentum going on the international stage.
As mentioned, France overcame Bosnia 1-0 earlier in Group D courtesy of Antoine Griezmann’s winner, and this week’s visitors to Strasbourg are now winless in five against the world champions, who have never failed to score in this fixture.
France World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
France form (all competitions):
Bosnia-Herzegovina World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Bosnia-Herzegovina form (all competitions):
We say: France 3-1 Bosnia-Herzegovina
Without their two first-choice full-backs, France may not feel all that confident about keeping the opposition out this week, but the other end of the pitch is where their true qualities lie.
Speculation surrounding his future and a poor Euro 2020 showing will not help Kylian Mbappe, but Karim Benzema has returned to the team with flying colours and should help France claim a straightforward win and prolong Bosnia’s rut.