This is Poland’s first knockout match at the World Cup since 1986, when they gave Brazil a scare before eventually losing 4-0. Their spirit was broken early in the second half when Josimar scored another monstrous goal to make it 2-0.
All the best shocks occur when you (think you) know the result beforehand
Whimper versus bang latest
Team news: nine changes for France
Didier Deschamps makes nine changes from the Tunisia game, returning to the XI that beat Denmark eight days ago. Raphael Varane and Aurelien Tchouameni are the only men who started on Wednesday.
The Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz makes two changes from the team that lost to Argentina. Sebastian Szymanski and Jakub Kaminski replace Krystian Bielik and Karol Swiderski, which could mean a switch to a back five.
France (4-2-3-1) Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, T Hernandez; Tchouameni, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud.
Substitutes: Mandanda, Areola, Pavard, Disasi, Guendouzi, Kolo Muani, Fofana, Veretout, Saliba, Coman, Konate, Camavinga, Thuram.
Poland (possible 5-2-2-1) Szczesny; Cash, Bereszynski, Kiwior, Glik, Frankowski; S Szymanski, Krychowiak; Zielinski, Kaminski; Lewandowski.
Substitutes: Skorupski, Grabara, Jedrzejczyk, Wieteska, Bednarek, Bielik, Milik, D Szymanski, Grosicki, Swiderski, Zurkowski, Zalewski, Piatek, Gumny, Skoras.
Referee Jesus Valenzuela Saez (Venezuela)
I see Amélie Poulain’s been up to mischief again
The best way to achieve greatness is to retain something. Okay, not anything. Nobody put Modena in the pantheon when they won the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1981 and 1982. But the World Cup, now that’s the ultimate. It has been retained only twice, by Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962, and no team has even come close since the turn of the century.
To win the World Cup twice in a row brooks not a solitary sane argument, and that’s what France are hoping to achieve over the next fortnight. Qualifying for the knockout rounds is a big start. Incredibly, and for once I’m not misusing that word, four of the previous five holders went out in the group stage, including France in 2002. Don’t bother trying to understand; just file it under F,BH.
Even without half a dozen of their best players, France, and particularly Kylian Mbappe, looked ominous in beating Australia and Denmark. Their reserve side lost to Tunisia on Wednesday, though there’s a comforting precedent for that. At Euro 2000, France’s B team lost the third group game to the Netherlands; the A team won the tournament.
France’s path to glory in Qatar was made harder by Spain’s defeat to Japan in the week. They may now have to beat England, Spain and either Argentina or Brazil to win the trophy. But first, Des, they have to take care of Poland. That part feels straighforward, though we said the same before they lost to Switzerland at the same stage of Euro 2020.
Still, Poland look ripe for evisceration after qualifying for the last 16 with their tail between their legs. It feels like they lost today’s game on Wednesday night. They were heavily criticised for their passive, pragmatic defeat to Argentina, and things like that can devastate morale. Who knew good behaviour could be so lamentable?
Kick off 3pm GMT, 6pm in Al Thumama, 4pm in Paris and Warsaw. The winners will play England or Senegal in the last quarter-final on Saturday evening.