A huge week of International football across the globe as the countdown to World Cup 2010 continues and there is any number of key fixtures, particularly in Europe, taking place this Saturday.
World Cup winners in 1998 and European Champions in 2000, France have failed to scale those heights in recent years following the retirement of the likes of Desailly, Blanc, Deschamps and Zidane but Les Bleus still have a number of talented individuals capable of winning any fixture and I expect them to take a step closer to South Africa and the finals with victory over Romania in Paris.
Much criticised after France’s failure to progress form the group stages at Euro 2008, Raymond Domench and his side remained under a cloud following an opening day 3-1 defeat to Austria but have since bounced back in tremendous style and now have qualification in their own hands.
A 2-1 win over current Group 7 leaders Serbia on home soil plus a double over Lithuania and victory over the Faroe Islands last time out have seen the French climb into second spot and with a trip to Belgrade to come on Wednesday they will now have their sights set on topping the section and earning an automatic place in the draw. Following that defeat in Vienna, Domenech would probably have settled for a play-off spot but the visit of an out-of-sorts Romania will hold no fears and France are genuine outsiders at 23.0 with Coral to win the biggest prize of all once again.
Romania arrived at Euro 2008 last summer full of hope and expectation following an impressive run of results but they have been a massive disappointment over the past 12 months and are virtually out of the running for South Africa. Defeats on home turf to Lithuania and Serbia appear to have cost Romania any chance of progressing and they were fortunate to scramble a point in a 2-2 draw against Saturday’s opponents back in October when these two last met despite taking an early lead.
On the score sheet for France that day in Costanta was Franck Ribery and the Bayern Munich winger is just one of any number of match-winners France have at their disposal. It is surprising that a team with such talented individuals in their ranks as Karim Benzema, Thierry Henry and Yoann Gourcuff has managed just eight goals in six matches but France have become tough to beat again too and you have to think that one will be enough to see-off a timid Romania.
In must-win match for France I have them closer to the 1.40 mark to prevail against a side with little more than pride to play for and, while Razvan Lucescu’s men will be no pushovers, this really should be a comfortable three points for the hosts who have plenty of key men in decent early season form for their respective clubs.
3pts Back France (vs. Romania) @ 1.53 (Bet 365)