Al Thumama Stadium is the venue as defending champions, who progressed as Group D winners, take on the Poles, who edged Mexico to a runner-up finish in Group C on a goal difference alone.
Even though Karim Benzema joined a sizeable injury list at the start of the tournament, Les Bleus looked unfazed against Australia, coming from a 1-0 deficit to start their Qatar journey with a 4-1 victory.
Didier Deschamps’ men carried that momentum into a round-two clash against Denmark, with Kylian Mbappe notching a second-half brace to fire them to a 2-1 win and secure knockout progression with a game to spare.
That allowed France to make numerous squad alterations against Tunisia on the final group stage matchday, although it didn’t pay off as the African minnows eked out a 1-0 win.
But it may still pay dividends in the long run, namely against Poland, who, despite reeling off some lacklustre performances, finished second to Argentina in their group.
It turns out that a 2-0 round-two triumph over Saudi Arabia, inspired by Robert Lewandowski’s maiden World Cup goal, was enough to catapult the Poles into the World Cup knockout stage for the first time since 1986.
Despite shockingly losing to Tunisia last time out, Les Blues have become the first reigning World Cup champion to make it out of the group stage since Brazil in 2006.
Penalty shootouts excluded, that loss to the Eagles of Carthage marked France’s first major tournament defeat since a 1-0 extra-time heartbreak in the 2016 European Championship final against Portugal (W9, D4 since).
After defying that hoodoo, France should be safe and sound, especially considering they’ve progressed beyond the round of 16 in all five appearances at this stage of a World Cup since its introduction in 1986.
Poland should consider themselves lucky for having an opportunity to tackle France in the World Cup knockout stage, given their disastrous showing in a 2-0 loss to Argentina last time out saw them finish the game without attempting a single shot on target.
But as evidenced by numerous major upsets in Qatar, everyone’s fortunes can change in a blink of an eye, with the Poles having one significant piece of history backing their case here.
The Eagles have faced defending World Cup champions twice before, going unbeaten on each occasion (W1, D1) without conceding a single goal in the process.
France vs Poland Head-to-Head
France’s only previous meeting with Poland at the World Cup finals yielded a shocking result, given the two nations’ contrasting reputations in world football. The Poles claimed a 3-2 victory in the third-place playoff tie in the 1982 tournament.
However, Les Bleus have encountered far more luck in their recent matches against Poland, going unbeaten across their last seven H2Hs (W3, D4) since a 4-0 defeat in 1982. Moreover, they’ve kept a clean sheet in four of their most recent five games against the Eagles.
However, to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1974, Michniewicz’s team will have to rediscover the scoring touch that’s often let them down in Qatar.
France vs Poland Potential Line-ups
France (4-2-3-1): Hugo Lloris; Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez; Aurelien Tchouameni, Adrien Rabiot; Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe; Olivier Giroud.
Poland (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Matty Cash, Kamil Glik, Jakub Kiwior, Bartosz Bereszynski; Grzegorz Krychowiak, Krystian Bielik; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Piotr Zielinski, Jakub Kaminski; Robert Lewandowski.
France vs Poland Prediction
Despite an injury-riddled start to the tournament, Deschamps seized the opportunity to make nine changes to his starting XI against Tunisia, letting a large chunk of France’s star players overcome fatigue.
With Les Bleus set to come at an underperforming Poland at full bore, we cannot see an exhausted Michniewicz’s side withstanding the pressure Mbappe & Co will likely apply from the start.
Anything other than the Frenchmen’s triumph would fit the billing of this upset-packed Qatar tournament, but we’d still stick with Deschamps’ boys here.
France 2-0 Poland
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