France Vs. Poland World Cup Round of 16 Odds, Picks, Predictions (12/4/22)

The curse is broken! After a wave of injuries, and then an early opener by Australia, some thought that France might fall victim to the infamous World Cup winners’ curse and be eliminated in the group stage, but this group is simply different; they won their group, and generally made it look easy. Poland also broke a curse of sorts, even if a less prolific one, as they’re in the knockout stages for the first time since 1986, and Robert Lewandowski finally scored his first World Cup goal. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks as both of these squads attempt to break historical trends and keep moving on.

France Vs. Poland Odds

Vegas sees this one as a pretty significant mismatch for this late in the tournament, with France listed at -320 compared to Poland at +950, with the draw at +425- even though this is a knockout match that could see overtime, there’s still a three-way line that encompasses the 90 minutes of regulation. The odds on goalscoring are pretty even, over and under 2.5 are both in the minus with the over a slight favorite at -120.

France Vs. Poland Prediction & Pick

If anyone’s sounding the alarm over France’s surprise defeat at the hands of Tunisia, well, they probably just shouldn’t. It sounds a bit simplistic, but it was a heavily-rotated side, and that result does not change the fact that across their first two matches, the defending champs were one of the best sides of the group stage. They rebounded from an early defensive lapse to dominate Australia, and then did away with a very talented Denmark team in a match that was not quite as closely fought as the final score would indicate. And even though the litany of injuries is a legitimate concern as far as depth goes, the active top-choice lineup has been excellent, as just about every injury replacement has shone brightly.

It’s been a weird one for Poland, as they advanced despite being held scoreless in two of the three games played in their group. There was the double-shutout with Mexico, a key 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, and then an 0-2 loss at the hands of Alexis MacAllister and Argentina, in which they kept it just close enough to advance. There will be no apologies made, nor should there be when you advance from a group that got so complicated. But there are things to work on, namely maximizing the potential impact of Lewandowski, and keeping Wojciech Szczesny out of situations where he has to turn into an upgraded version of 2006 Gianluigi Buffon. This is, by its nature, a team reliant upon its stars, but the balance between the two of them needs to shift quite a bit if Poland want to pose a credible threat to a team like France.

Be that as it may, I don’t think they will pose such a threat; I fully expect France to cruise as the odds imply they should. They should create chances at a similar rate to what Argentina did, and it’s simply not realistic to expect Szczesny to be nearly as good as he was in that match, in which La Albiceleste did end up scoring twice. On a similar note, France themselves haven’t kept any clean sheets, even with their top-choice defense on the pitch; there could be some serious goalscoring in this one, so along with France on the moneyline, I’m taking the over. Obviously, although it’s my pick for the result, France -320 isn’t an incredible payout, so I’d either bet a spread or simply parlay it with something like the over.

Key Matchups

Poland Attack vs. France Defense

This is a talented Polish team, but at a basic level, their centerpiece should be the attack, built around two-time Ballon D’Or theft victim Robert Lewandowski. And sure enough, the now-Barca striker has been the only constant in the front part of the Polish lineup, as manager Czesław Michniewicz has tinkered with the complimentary attackers in each lineup. Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski has also been in every lineup, albeit in several different positions. Otherwise there has been no stability; Poland has come out in three completely formations- sole striker with a CAM and two wings, two strikers and two wingers, and the altogether confusing 4-4-1-1, as Lewandowski and Zielinski have been joined by everyone from veterans such as Arkadiusz Milik, to more unknown quantities such as Karol Swideriski of the MLS. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s another brand-new lineup against France, or if they’ll at least somewhat draw on one of the tactics from the group stage. Whichever it is, they’ll have to do a better job of getting the ball to Lewandowski in dangerous situations; he only shot the ball twice against Mexico (one of which was a missed penalty kick) and didn’t take a single shot against Argentina. Poland have survived so far, but that is not a sustainable trend going forward.

It’s hard to call France’s defense the brightest spot of the team, especially considering they’ve experienced perhaps the worst of the team’s overall injury crisis, but it’s still a talented group. Whichever duo of Dayot Upecameno, Raphaël Varane, and Ibrahima Konaté is selected on a particular day is an extremely talented one, and I’ve said it a million times but here we go again- Theo Hernández is on an extremely short list of the best players in the world. Right back is a bit of an unknown quantity, however; Jules Koundé has gotten some time out there, despite being surely more comfortable at centre-back, and the 2018 incumbent Benjamin Pavard has gotten minutes too, so it’ll be interesting to see who Didier Deschamps selects for Poland and of course potentially beyond. The other interesting lineup choice made by Deschamps has been the complete banishment of Arsenal superstar William Saliba; perhaps he’ll see a bit more of the pitch as Les Bleus continue to search for their very first clean sheet of the tournament. Of course, with Mike Maignan absent due to injury, Hugo Lloris continues to be in no danger of losing his job as starting keeper, but that’s not to say he’s been his best self- there have been signs of decline, and a possible weakness in a strong French side.

French Attack vs. Polish Defense

Even with some significant injuries to deal with, the French attack is one of the very best in this tournament. With questions on the defensive end of things, this group has the best chance of burying Poland and putting the game out of reach. As will be the case for likely at least the next decade, Kylian Mbappé has been in his absolute best form for his country- it can truly be said that the young man lives for the World Cup. He has started at left wing, and been joined by the exact same attacking group in both of the matches in which France played their best XI- Antoine Griezmann, who is having an excellent club season but also always plays his best for his nation, is at CAM, the criminally and perpetually underrated Olivier Giroud has been excellent as sole striker in the absence of Karim Benzema, and Ousmane Dembélé is still holding down the right wing position. It’s a high-flying group, and even with injuries, they have enough depth to benefit from the likes of Kingsley Coman and Marcus Thuram coming off of the bench. This group is the definition of elite, and Poland will need to severely limit them to have any sort of chance.

The Polish defense that will be saddled with that daunting task has done more of the heavy lifting than perhaps they had imagined they would. They were of course major contributors in the scoreless draw against Mexico, in which Poland picked up a vital point, and they did their job en route to a shutout of a Saudi Arabia side that scored on both Argentina and Mexico in their other two matches. Unlike the attack, however, Poland has employed the same defense in each match so far, possibly a testament to the performances of each unit. It’s been a back four, with Italian club players Jakub Kiwior and Kamil Glik in the middle, another Serie A man in Bartosz Bereszynski at left back, and then Aston Villa’s Matty Cash on the right. It isn’t quite a superstar group, but they’ve been steady and reliable. Other than the penalty-creating mistake against Mexico and whatever the hell happened against Argentina, they’ve done a good job of limiting opposing chances, but the Argentina match is a serious concern when it comes to their ability to defend another top team like France. As I alluded to earlier, Szczesny has been absolutely unconscious, playing the best football of his life and putting in some downright herculean performances, but as we saw against Argentina, even on his very best days he can only do so much to help the team if his back four keep putting him in bad positions.

From starting my own blog in Middle School, to working on a friend’s in college, and finally joining the Lineups team this year, I’ve been writing about sports for over a decade and betting on them as long as I’ve been legally able. I graduated from the University of Michigan last year, where I took sports journalism classes alongside my business major. Having played and watched sports for almost my whole life, I aim to provide insight and entertainment, as well as profitable picks, in my writing about professional and collegiate leagues.

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