Usually, when the world champions come rolling into town, there is pandemonium and fanfare as everybody tries to catch a glimpse of the best team in the world.
When France visit Stockholm’s Friends Arena to kick-off their UEFA Nations League campaign, there will be no such europhia.
The 4/1 tournament favourites will, like many other sides, face their opponents behind closed doors as the football world continues to cope with the impacts of COVID-19.
Impacts that are being felt by the France squad, who’ve lost influential midfielder Paul Pogba, Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and Lyon’s Champions League star Houssem Aouar after all three tested positive for the virus.
That being said, it’s not a major problem for coach Didier Deschamps. France’s immense squad depth is such that even without those three players, their side is still arguably the best in world football – and the names that do miss out are what’s really impressive.
Their loss is someone else’s gain though, and that man is 17-year-old Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga – the youngest player called up to the France squad since 1932.
Born in Angola to Congolese parents, Camavinga moved to Brittany when he was two-years-old and didn’t obtain French citizenship until last year. With (almost) a full season of Ligue 1 football under his belt, the future of Les Blues could already be here.
The same probably can’t be said for their hosts though, whose 25-man squad has an average age of 27.3, and includes nine players aged 30 or over.
Head coach Janne Andersson has stuck by the experienced players in his squad, though he is without captain Andreas Granqvist who continues his rehab from an injury that has kept him out for the majority of the Allsvenskan season.
That could be a blessing in disguise for the Swedes though, as a centre-back pairing of Victor Lindelöf and Pontus Jansson is arguably their strongest defensive partnership. Whether that’s enough to keep France’s dynamic attack at bay remains to be seen.
Their success, however, likely depends on how Emil Forsberg performs. More often than not he holds the key to the safe for the Blågult, and has a goal and two assists in his last four competitive internationals.
As far as betting is concerned, Both Teams to Score – NO at 5/6 could be an interesting shout. Both sides have scored once in France’s last seven matches away from home, whilst eight of Sweden’s last 10 games have seen both teams fail to bag.
With France’s defensive looking midfield – including Rabiot, Kante, N’Zonzi and Sissoko alongside Camavinga – and Sweden’s strong defensive record (six clean sheets in eight games), goals could be at a premium here.
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