the star of the Blues against Lewandowski, to shine or spin

The France of Kylian Mbappé, crowned in 2018, rubs shoulders with the Poland of Robert Lewandowski and the pressure of a first ax match, Sunday (4:00 p.m.) in the round of 16 of the World Cup-2022, with lights “green” but red level vigilance.

In the post-war period, no team has held onto the World Cup throne since Pelé’s Brazil in 1962.

The French dream of walking in the footsteps of the “King” and Mbappé, on Saturday, had a thought for the Brazilian legend (82), who suffers from colon cancer and was hospitalized in Sao Paulo: “Pray for the King “, tweeted the superstar of Paris SG, before a reassuring statement released Saturday evening by the hospital, describing a “stable” state.

The pressure is slipping so far on the shoulders of the 23-year-old phenomenon, already three goals in three matches, as on the rest of the French workforce, yet weakened by an avalanche of packages before and during the tournament.

“The team is aware of the event, of entering a new phase in this competition,” said captain Hugo Lloris, at the head of a talented selection, renewed and stretched towards the possibility of a historic double.

The Blues “are entering the great days of the World Cup, uncertain days”, sums up the daily L’Equipe. “The place lends itself to the domination of one class over another, the French offensive force against the Polish defensive virtues”, writes Le Parisien.

The reigning champions dominated Australia (4-1) and Denmark (2-1) with composure, the holders almost all suffered against Tunisia (1-0 defeat) and they arrive with light legs against to Poles blunted by three hung matches.

The past, “no interest”

“The lights are green”, the “talent” is there, be careful however not to bend under the weight of the event, recalls Lloris, brought to equal Lilian Thuram’s 142 record selections on Sunday.

At this level, any lack of concentration is eliminatory and the Blues paid the price, in the round of 16 of the Euro in 2021, wasting a two-goal lead in the last quarter of an hour against Switzerland (3-3 , 5-4 tabs).

“Talking about the past, especially that one, I don’t see the point,” coach Didier Deschamps cut short. “The sensations experienced by those who were there, they don’t want to relive them. The only common point is that it is in the round of 16, ”evades the coach.

In Bucharest, the Blues had come up against goalkeeper Yann Sommer, in a state of grace and author of a decisive save on Mbappé’s last shot on goal. At the al-Thumama stadium (44,400 seats), this time it will be necessary to manage to circumvent Wojciech Szczesny.

The bulwark of Juventus released two penalties in the group stage, including one against the Argentinian Lionel Messi. The survival of the “Bialo-Czerwoni” (White and Red) is due more to the performance of the goalkeeper than to the flashes of Lewandowski, his attacking star too lonely to shine.

“Put pressure on them”

“Lewandowski can make a difference at any time” but “it remains a collective, a team which takes great pleasure in defending and suffering”, noted Lloris, even if “Lewy”, top scorer in Europe for the past two seasons, struggling to weigh in this World Cup.

On the French side, the goal machine only stalled against Tunisia, with the substitutes, but ran at full speed in the first two matches, with a diffuse threat: Mbappé scored with three different passers (Ousmane Dembélé, Theo Hernandez and Antoine Griezmann), Adrien Rabiot took care of his statistics against Australia (one goal, one assist) and Olivier Giroud joined Thierry Henry as the best artificer in the history of the Blues (51 goals).

“Weaknesses, I looked for them, and I didn’t find any. But each team has phases of the match where it makes mistakes. We will have to take advantage of it, and put pressure on them all the time so that they commit it, ”says coach Czeslaw Michniewicz, criticized for his cautious style of play in Poland despite the first qualification in the eighth since 1986.

The winner will play his quarter-final, Saturday, December 10, at the al-Bayt stadium against England or Senegal. The vice-champions of Europe and the champions of Africa clash in the evening (8:00 p.m.) in the enclosure of al-Khor, about fifty kilometers north of Doha.

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