France have new factors to deal with, including a synthetic pitch, as they visit Kazakhstan in World Cup qualifying on Sunday.
Didier Deschamps acknowledges a five-hour time difference and a synthetic pitch will make life difficult for France in Kazakhstan, but believes the world champions “have an obligation to get a result”.
Sunday’s early World Cup qualifier takes Les Bleus to Astana four days on from a disappointing 1-1 home draw against Ukraine. France can ill afford another slip up but face potentially tricky opponents in Kazakhstan, who have not yet played their first match but enjoyed their most successful European Championship qualifying campaign to date ahead of Euro 2020.
That included a dominant 3-0 home win over Scotland, who ultimately qualified for the finals, in which Kazakhstan had just 41 per cent of the possession but mustered 10 shots – including six on target. The jeopardy of Sunday’s qualifier goes beyond just the threat of the hosts for France, however, as Deschamps’ side also contend with travel, jetlag and an unfamiliar surface.
“With my staff, we know this opponent well,” the coach told a news conference. “But the difficulty is the lag, because it can be difficult to find sleep, and a pitch different from those on which players are used to playing. It’s up to us to make sure we’re at our level. A trap? I don’t know, but there are additional difficulties, yes.”
Although Bosnia-Herzegovina and Finland drew, meaning France lost no ground in midweek, a response is required following their frustrating outing in Paris. Les Bleus had 63 per cent of the possession and 18 shots but only three on target, including Antoine Griezmann’s spectacular opener. Ukraine mustered a meagre three attempts, one of which decisively deflected in off Presnel Kimpembe for an own goal.
“Even with a better result, we would have had the same obligation [in Astana] against an opponent who has nothing to lose,” Deschamps said. “It’s up to us to do the job, and more than pressure, we have an obligation to get a result. The pressure was greater in the Euro qualifiers, when we went to Andorra just after our defeat in Turkey, with the same specificity of the synthetic pitch. On what they have done in recent matches, Kazakhstan are solid and concede few goals. It’s never simple anyway.”
Meanwhile, captain Hugo Lloris highlighted the potential positives of playing on a synthetic pitch: “It promotes the short passing game,” he said. “We are going to try to get our bearings as best as we can in the training later [on Saturday].
“And tomorrow [Sunday] we’ll try to play and have the maximum of fun. We expect a match like against Ukraine, to have the ball in front of a low block. We must put intensity in our passes, in our running. The use of the ball will be so important, so to adapt to the synthetic pitch will be very important for tomorrow.”