France’s coach Didier Deschamps / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE
A rejuvenated France will take on Spain in a “glamour” friendly on Tuesday as coach Didier Deschamps looks to rotate his squad in a bid to extend a seven-match unbeaten streak.
Fresh from a 3-1 victory over Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier at the weekend, the Euro 2016 runners-up will line up against a Spanish side that has dipped since winning the treble of two Euros (2008, 2012) and the 2010 World Cup, but remains strong on paper.
“It’s a glamour fixture. It’s a neighbouring country and, like against Italy and England, there is a distinctive flavour,” said Deschamps.
“It will be a test. It’s not at all the same style of match as Saturday (against Luxembourg). It’s good to have adversity, to suffer even, and be put in difficulty. It’s more appealing to play matches against opponents like Spain.”
As for any friendly, falling as it does between World Cup qualifiers and a heavy club schedule, Deschamps will likely rotate his squad, notably with the League Cup final between Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco scheduled for Saturday.
“I’ll try to give the maximum number of my players some game time,” he added.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa, scorer of one of the goals in Spain’s 4-1 win over Israel in Friday’s World Cup qualifier, suffered an ankle injury in training on Sunday which could rule him out of the friendly.
“He is staying with the squad but his participation in the game on Tuesday in Paris is uncertain,” the Spanish federation said.
– Blind axed –
The Netherlands take on Italy, who are vying with Spain for top spot in their World Cup qualifying group, at the worst possible time.
Danny Blind was sacked as Dutch coach following a 2-0 defeat by Bulgaria that left the team’s chances of reaching the World Cup finals hanging by the slenderest of threads.
“We were on the right track in Bulgaria, but it’s a pity that it ends like this,” he said, with his assistant Fred Grim to take charge in Amsterdam.
Blind, 55, had been in charge since July 2015, succeeding Guus Hiddink, but Saturday’s loss in Sofia left the Dutch in fourth place in qualifying Group A, six points behind leaders France.
Only the group winners are guaranteed a place in the 2018 finals in Russia.
And in Russia, the home side host Belgium in what will be the first football game played at Sochi’s Fisht arena.
The stadium, which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in 2014, was then transformed into a 47,600-seat football ground, where four matches of June’s Confederations Cup, including a semi-final, will be played in preparation for the World Cup.
Belgium look clear favourites, with Russia never having beaten them in the post-Soviet era and coming off the back of a first ever defeat to an African team on Friday, when they lost 2-0 to Ivory Coast.
Madeira’s Maritimo Stadium will be packed to capacity as Cristiano Ronaldo returns to his home island, which is hosting a Portugal international for the first time in 16 years, with the European champions facing Sweden.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Georgia v Latvia (1400)
Albania v Bosnia-Herzegovina (1600)
Egypt v Togo (1600)
Estonia v Croatia (1600)
Macedonia v Belarus (1600)
Russia v Belgium (1600)
South Africa v Angola (1700)
Luxembourg v Cape Verde (1800)
Austria v Finland (1845)
Netherlands v Italy (1845)
Portugal v Sweden (1845)
Republic of Ireland v Iceland (1845)
Cameroon v Guinea (1900)
France v Spain (1900)