France look a class above their European rivals and it’s hard to see how Poland can stop them. Inform your World Cup round of 16 predictions ahead of the first knockout round of Qatar 2022.
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Host Gareth Wheeler is joined once more by Jake Osgathorpe, Andrew Beasley and Simon Edwards to review the World Soccer Cup 2022 Group Stage and look ahead to the last 16 ties.
Mbappé the driving force for France success
It was a story of injury absentees and fitness concerns ahead of the tournament for France, but the defending champions topped their group and will now expect to reach the quarter-finals.
Even without the likes of N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema, and Christopher Nkunku, the two-time winners still look like a squad capable of lifting the trophy again in Qatar.
Les Bleus scored six goals in the group stage and head into Sunday’s showdown with Poland with renewed confidence and with a number 10 playing at the peak of his powers.
Kylian Mbappé is joint-top goalscorer at present, with three goals and one assist to his name, and the Paris Saint Germain star is threatening to take this tournament by storm.
In contrast, Poland’s main man Robert Lewandowski has been very quiet, having been starved of service in his country’s first three matches.
The Barcelona frontman did score the second goal in their 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia but was isolated in their defeat to Argentina – when Poland had just 27% of possession and didn’t register one shot on target.
Both teams will go into this round-of-16 clash on the back of defeats in their final group games, but France had already qualified and made a whole host of changes for their 1-0 loss to Tunisia.
Mbappé is one of the regulars who didn’t start that game and the Poles are going to have to find a way of stopping the 23-year-old – who has an xG of 2.4 so far in their tournament.
Didier Deschamps made no fewer than nine changes for the final Group D game against Tunisia, with only Raphaël Varane and Aurélien Tchouaménistarting from the team that beat Denmark.
Les Bleus scored six goals in the group stage and head into Sunday’s showdown with Poland.
Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann, and Ousmane Dembélé are expected to line up behind the lone striker, who is likely to be AC Milan’s Oliver Giroud.
Poland have stuck with a 4-4-2 formation so far in this tournament and it looks unlikely that Czesław Michniewicz will change his plan for this round-of-16 encounter.
The biggest decision facing the Poland coach is who will partner Lewandowski up front, with the choice seemingly between Arkadiusz Milik or Karol Świderski.
France vs. Poland predictions
France look a class above their European rivals and it’s hard to see how Poland can stop them, even though their recent defensive record makes for impressive reading.
Poland have kept clean sheets in four of their last five internationals, but this is a different level of opponent – especially the brilliant Mbappé.
Griezmann is also top-level attacking threat, with the Atletico Madrid star currently topping the stats for both key passes and expected assists.
The head-to-head stats also favour the defending champions, with France having won three of their last six meetings with Poland. In fact, you have to go back to 1982 for the last time Poland beat Sunday’s opponents.
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