France will kick off its World Cup title defense when it hosts Ukraine in the opening round of 2022 World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.
No country has won back-to-back World Cups since Pelé's Brazil did so in 1958 and 1962, but with its young core led by 22-year-old phenom Kylian Mbappé, France has as good a chance as any defending champion.
Les Bleus are the heavy favorites in Group D, where they will play home and away matches against Ukraine, Finland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan. The winners of each group will advance to the World Cup in Qatar that starts in November 2022; the second-place finishers and two qualifiers from the UEFA Nations League will compete in a three-group playoff for the remaining three spots in March 2022.
How to Watch:
Time: 3:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: None in the USA
France XI: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe, Hernandez; Kanté, Rabiot; Mbappé, Griezmann, Coman; Giroud
Ukraine XI: Bushchan; Karavaev, Zabarnyi, Mykolenko, Kryvtsov, Matvyienko; Sydorchuk, Malinovskyi, Shaparenko, Zinchenko; Yaremchuk
In their last meeting in October, France routed a COVID-depleted Ukraine side 7-1, but just a month later, France suffered a stunning 2-0 defeat at the hands of Finland. Manager Didier Deschamps has named a strong squad for qualifying this week against Ukraine and Kazakhstan featuring 14 players from the World Cup winning team in Russia.
Ukraine has lost five of its last six international matches, but the 1-0 win over Spain in October should give the squad plenty of hope to shoot for the stars at the Stade de France.
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