DOHA : France will look to strike the right balance between resting players and keeping their World Cup momentum going when they take on Tunisia in their final Group D game on Wednesday.
The defending champions qualified for the knockout rounds with a game to spare after a 4-1 win against Australia and a 2-1 win against Denmark, and a draw with Tunisia would guarantee them top spot.
Should they finish first, they will face the team who end up second in Group C, which features Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Mexico.
Coach Didier Deschamps is set to rest some of his key men and give fringe players minutes at the Education City Stadium.
Kylian Mbappe might be expected to be held back in reserve but the talismanic forward is chasing records in Qatar and Deschamps could give him some playing time to help him add to his seven World Cup goals – three of which were scored here.
Steve Mandanda is likely to start between the posts and Deschamps might also want to give Jules Kounde some time to adjust to the right back position after he replaced the disappointing Benjamin Pavard for the Denmark game.
Deschamps’ biggest decision will be whether Raphael Varane plays or not. The centre back returned from a hamstring injury for the second game and was substituted in the second half.
“I haven’t talked to the coach about it yet. We’ll think about what’s best for the team first, then we’ll see what’s best for me,” Varane told reporters.
“The best thing is to get some playing time, but we’ll see with the coach.”
Midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot are likely to be rested as their role is the most physically demanding in the French system.
With Lucas Hernandez ruled out of the tournament due to a serious injury, his brother Theo is the only true left back in the squad.
Deschamps could give Eduardo Camavinga a run at left back after the Real Madrid midfielder was deployed there in a couple of friendly games against local teams.
Up front, Olivier Giroud could start again after making clear he has the legs to play every four days.
“We always want to play a lot. It is necessary to see how we feel physically and what the coach has in mind,” said Giroud, who will become France’s all-time top scorer if he finds the back of the net against Tunisia.
He is tied on 51 goals with Thierry Henry.
“I’ve played 14 or 15 matches with AC Milan, every three or four days. I have shown that I can do it. No matter who plays, we’ll do everything we can to extend our perfect start.”