Injuries hurt France ahead of qualifiers

Oct 5, 2017 - 4:10 PM Avoiding another unpredictable World Cup play-off won't be easy for France.

Going into the final two matches of the qualifying campaign, the 1998 world champions still lead Group A and remain favourites to gain automatic qualification. But France's lead over Sweden has been reduced to only one point after they managed just four points in their last three games.

Another slip-up could put French hopes of travelling to Russia next year in jeopardy. Adding spice to the challenge France have been hit by injuries ahead of a tricky trip to Bulgaria this weekend.

"We're not going to dramatise the situation, but we have to be aware of what we're playing for, and what three points in Bulgaria would mean," France coach Didier Deschamps said.

The latest blow to France, who qualified for the 2010 and 2014 tournaments through play-offs, came on Wednesday when Paris Saint-Germain left-back Layvin Kurzawa was forced to withdraw with a damaged ligament in his left knee.

Kurzawa joins Laurent Koscielny, Benjamin Mendy, Ousmane Dembele and Paul Pogba in missing the game at Vasil Levski Stadium and will also sit out France's final qualifier against Belarus on October 10 at the Stade de France.

Up front, Deschamps has a different type of headache to deal with.

Teenage striker Kylian Mbappe has been so good with PSG recently that he will likely start against Bulgaria. But where?

It would make sense for Deschamps to use him as a centre-forward in a role perfectly suited for his speed and technical qualities, although Mbappe has been mostly playing on the right side with his club.

"He's doing great things with Paris. He's playing lots of matches and confirming what he had shown at Monaco, while improving," Deschamps said.

"He's more on the right at Paris, although with a lot of freedom. He's a forward, he can play well down the middle, on the left."

Source: AAP

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