When France hosts Croatia at the Stade de France on Monday night, the reigning world champions will be looking to climb out of last place in League A Group 1 of the UEFA Nations League.
On Friday night, Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw by Austria, while Zlatko Dalic’s team finally got off to a winning start by defeating Denmark 1-0.
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Whether it’s fatigue from a long and arduous domestic season or something deeper within Didier Deschamps’ ranks, France is struggling at the moment, and they’re on the verge of going four Nations League games without a win.
Zinedine Zidane’s continued links with Paris Saint-Germain are not music to the ears of Bleus fans who believe a change in the hotseat is required, especially after their side only managed a point from a 1-1 draw with Austria last time out, with Kylian Mbappe coming off the bench to cancel out Andreas Weimann’s opener.
The world and Nations League champions are in fourth place after taking just two points from the first nine games, which might lead to an unexpected demotion to League B if their fortunes do not improve, not to mention a drop in morale before defending their global crown.
Despite recent defensive troubles and a lack of ruthlessness, France has now scored in each of their past 23 matches across all competitions, and they may surge above their forthcoming opponents with a much-needed victory at the Stade de France.
A fit that isn’t perfect Mbappe has urged his teammates to put in one final effort before heading off to the sun, sea, and beach for the holidays, but their future opponents will not be happy to see their enthusiasm snuffed out so quickly.
Before their trip to Copenhagen, Croatia had the same dismal record as France, and it took a couple of crucial midfield substitutions to turn the game in Croatia’s favor, with Denmark eventually losing 1-0.
The arrivals of Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric poured new life into the Croatian XI, and Mario Pasalic would score the game-winning goal in the 69th minute of a game that Dalic thought his team “deserved” to win. The 2018 World Cup runners-up are now in third place in the section, but a loss in Saint-Denis will drop them back into the relegation zone. However, they have already held France to a stalemate this month and should fancy their chances of doing so again.
Dalic presided over a humiliating 3-0 loss to Austria earlier this month, but it was Croatia’s only loss in their last 12 tournament outings since exiting Euro 2020, and the visitors have won each of their last four away games.
With Dalic’s jellied legs likely forcing him to break the defensive harmony more than he would have liked, a new set of attacking alternatives for Les Bleus could finally enable them win the group at the fourth time of asking.
With Modric and Kovacic directing play from the midfield, Deschamps’ side will still have a tough time, but Croatia’s frontline isn’t all that frightening.