France go all out to avoid Croatia clash

France striker Olivier Giroud (left) participating in a training session with midfielder Paul Pogba at the Glebovets Stadium.
France striker Olivier Giroud (left) participating in a training session with midfielder Paul Pogba at the Glebovets Stadium.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Les Bleus need a point against Danes to top Group C & shun the likely Group D winners

MOSCOW • France will not hold back against Denmark today because they do not want to meet Croatia in the World Cup last 16.

Croatia are not guaranteed to finish top of Group D, but Les Bleus rate Zlatko Dalic's side so highly that they would rather come up against Lionel Messi's Argentina, Nigeria or Iceland.

"The best team in Group D is Croatia," France star Paul Pogba said.

"They are a great team that were able to beat Argentina (3-0)."

Fellow midfielder Corentin Tolisso also explained why France, who have already qualified, will be out to at least secure the point they need today to clinch first place.

A draw in Moscow would also send Denmark through as Group C runners-up irrespective of Australia's result against Peru.


PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME

I think he will get stronger, I hope he does. That was the case at the Euros, he started slowly and finished very strong. I'm not worried about him.

OLIVIER GIROUD, on his fellow France striker Antoine Griezmann's sluggish start to the tournament​

"Croatia will come out of Group D, so above all we have to avoid finishing second to avoid meeting them," said Tolisso.

"Between Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina, they are all good teams. We know the Argentines have very strong individuals, notably Lionel Messi... We know the last 16 will be difficult, regardless of the opponent."

Croatia currently lead Group D and if they finish that way, they will meet the runners-up in Group C.

Denmark great Peter Schmeichel has told son and fellow goalkeeper Kasper that Danish destiny is in their hands ahead of a game that has uncanny echoes of his own World Cup campaign 20 years ago.

"20 years ago to the day I played against France in Denmark's final group game with destiny in our own hands," the former Manchester United stopper tweeted.

"On Tuesday @kschmeichel1 will be doing exactly the same, with Denmark in the same position as they were in 1998," he wrote above photographs of himself and his son in action. "You can do it Denmark."

By uncanny coincidence, Denmark and then hosts France were drawn in the same four-team pool - Group C - back in 1998.

After the first two games, they were in exactly the same positions, with France qualified already on six points and Denmark on four and needing a draw to be sure of reaching the next round.

The younger Schmeichel, who plays for Leicester City, will not entirely want to emulate his old man, who made the knockout stages but failed to stop a Youri Djorkaeff penalty that helped France win 2-1.

France will be hoping star striker Antoine Griezmann beats Schmeichel and starts to hit his stride.

While Griezmann scored from the penalty spot in an opening 2-1 win over Australia, his sluggish start to the tournament mirrors his early travails at Euro 2016, where he finished as top scorer with six goals as France finished runners-up to Portugal .

"I think he will get stronger, I hope he does. That was the case at the Euros, he started slowly and finished very strong. I'm not worried about him," said France forward Olivier Giroud.

Griezmann clicked into gear as the competition in France progressed, netting five times in the knockout stages. He admitted there is room for improvement.

"I'm going to get better and I'm sure the level everyone expects, including myself, is going to come quickly," he told French TV channel TF1.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'France go all out to avoid Croatia clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe