What: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers – Group I
Who: Finland vs France
When: Friday 7th September, 2012, at 19:30 UK time
Where: Olympic Stadium, Helsinki, Finland

Start of Something New

With the dust from Euro 2012 having settled on the ground, the world turns its attention to the 20th FIFA World Cup, to be disputed in Brazil in two years’ time. Having never qualified for a World Cup or European Championship, Finland have the opportunity to make their maiden debut on the grand stage. To do so, they will need to clinch one of two positions in Group I, a group that also holds the best team in the world Spain and opponents here, France.

Finland have the right to dream, but in reality, qualification for the 2014 World Cup seems farfetched, at best. Mixu Paatelainen’s men have two strong competitors in their group, and any realistic chance of qualification would come from ending their campaign in second place. However, that appears to be highly unlikely as France have certainly improved since their 2010 World Cup debacle, while Spain look on top form as ever.

Finland managed to finish fourth in their Euro 2012 qualifying group, behind Hungary, Sweden and Holland – the Scandinavians will need the form of their lives to reach Brazil: Starting here.

Building On Blanc

Having said “Adieu” to the 2012 European Championship at the hands of eventual winners Spain, it is no secret that the showdown between the two neighbouring countries will be something France will look forward to in the race to reach the 2014 World Cup. Under the guidance of former Marseille coach Didier Deschamps, who succeeded Laurent Blanc, French fans will be hoping for a better and even stronger national side.

Having a fine core of players that includes skipper Hugo Lloris, Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, Deschamps will relish his chances of making the plane to Brazil in 2014. Speaking ahead of the beginning of the qualifying campaign, the 1998 World Cup winner made it clear what the objectives of his team are.

“Our objective is clear; to qualify for the World Cup and it starts with the first match. All our energy should be focused on the first game in Finland. The goal is to have an ideal start with a win in Finland.”

It is games like these that Les Bleus need to take three points from in order to top their group and guarantee qualification. Meeting Spain is never easy and a lead would be welcome ahead of the awaited match between the two next month in Madrid.

Recent form

Estonia 1-2 Finland (01/06; Friendly)
Finland 1-1 Latvia (03/06; Friendly)
Northern Ireland 3-3 Finland (15/08; Friendly)

Sweden 2-0 France (19/06; Friendly)
Spain 2-0 France (23/06; Euro 2012)
France 0-0 Uruguay (15/08; Friendly)

Players to watch

Finland – Petri Pasanen: The most capped player in this current Finnish side, the experience of the former Werder Bremen central defender could be crucial as the home side endure some fierce French attacking.

France – Karim Benzema: Benzema is still to open his account this season in La Liga as Gonzalo Higuain has been the preferred choice in attack for Real Madrid. Now on international duty, a strong showing would give Jose Mourinho some selection problems and fire France to a good start.

Match Prediction

Finland will try to make the Olympic Stadium as intimidating as possible for their travelling adversaries from the south, while in charge of his first non-friendly with France, Didier Deschamps wants to send a message to the football superpowers though. Expect France to win this one.

Grab a free bet for Finland v France. Inside Bet has exclusive free bets!