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Friday 15 December 2017

Yellow peril as French bid to mash Swedes

FRANCE coach Laurent Blanc has to decide whether to field his strongest team against already-eliminated Sweden tonight, with three players risking suspension for the quarter-finals if they get a yellow card.

France are in contention to win Group D if they beat the Swedes. The French need a draw to guarantee qualification, but would go through regardless if England beat Ukraine in the other game. Right-back Mathieu Debuchy, centre-half Philippe Mexes and right-winger Jeremy Menez were all yellow carded in the 2-0 win over Ukraine, and would miss the quarter-finals if booked tonight.

"We could have dealt with that if we were already qualified, but we're not," Blanc said. "A lot of things come into the equation. The team might be different from the one which started against Ukraine. I can't say anything more than that."

Blanc has a fully fit squad to choose from if he does decide to make changes. Right-back Anthony Reveillere, centre-half Laurent Koscielny and wingers Hatem Ben Arfa and Mathieu Valbuena are all ready, and Blanc has no doubts they could all do a good job if required.

"We're very well prepared physically," he said.

"The French team is getting stronger, not only technically, but physically. All the players have been prepared to be ready for the third match."

Strong

Blanc must also choose whether to keep Gael Clichy at left-back after his strong performance against Ukraine, or recall Patrice Evra.

"They're both very good left-backs. We'll have to decide," Blanc said. "They're very evenly matched and both have qualities of their own."

The French lead Group D with a slightly better goal difference than England, making them favourites to win the group.

The win against Ukraine was France's first at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup semi-finals.

"There's always the risk that you lose you concentration after winning a game," Blanc said.

"There was joy and satisfaction after the Ukraine game, and rightly so, but we have to focus our preparations now.

"One team is playing to qualify and the other, unfortunately, isn't. But they will be playing to win.

"We can't underestimate Sweden."

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