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Star-studded France aim for win over Sweden to inch closer to automatic World Cup qualification

Sweden v France World Cup qualifying

France are aiming to keep their unbeaten record in Group A of World Cup Qualifying Europe.

They are serious and focused, of course.

But in order to stay that way and move closer to getting the job done, they need to hurdle second-running Sweden at Friends Arena in Solna, just outside Stockholm.

Les Bleus, the Euro 2016 hosts and eventual runners-up, have dropped points in only one of their five qualifiers so far as they attempt to automatically qualify for Russia 2018.

That was the 0-0 draw away to Belarus in the match that opened their qualifying campaign last September.

This time, Didier Deschamps’ powerhouse squad want to be sure they remain unscathed.

After that scoreless draw, they have been coasting along after winning 2-1 at home to Sweden and 1-0 away to the Netherlands, who are down in fourth position in the group behind Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Sweden have won three, drawn one and lost one, with their other dropped points apart from the Stade de France defeat during a 1-1 home draw against the Dutch.

This will be a match of high importance for the Swedes because they will tie Deschamps’ side at the top of the table if they win.

But the more realistic goal for them will be the play-offs and parrying any late burst from the Dutch, who will now have Dick Advocaat as their new coach.

France and Sweden have collided 20 times previously, with the French winning 10 matches and the Swedes five. The other five games ended in draws.

In their five previous World Cup qualifying encounters, France have triumphed thrice and Sweden once, with one draw.

Moreover, Sweden have beaten France only once in 14 attempts since 1969.

Unlike France, Sweden are not seeing action in a friendly match. They instead collide with Norway the following Tuesday.

Sweden boss Janne Andersson has named a 23-man squad that includes Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Pontus Jansson (Leeds United) and Swansea City tandem Martin Olsson and Kristoffer Nordfeldt to take care of main business.

France, who hammered visiting Paraguay 5-0 in a friendly at Roazhon Park in Rennes recently, possess a high-powered 26-man group led by Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, Laurent Koscielny, and Hugo Lloris among others.

Vice-captain Raphael Varane is linking up with them after helping Real Madrid win the Champions League final over Juventus.

Having a formidable lineup at his behest, Deschamp shluld be bullish that his squad appear to be a cinch to get the full three points over Sweden and take another massive step to nail an automatic qualifying berth for the big event in Russia.