World Cup round of 16: France vs. Poland prediction, preview and team news

France broke the ‘curse of the champions’ but Deschamps warns of Polish surprise

Didier Deschamps coached France to victory at Russia 2018
Didier Deschamps coached France to victory at Russia 2018
(Image credit: Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

By qualifying for the World Cup knockout stage, holders France managed to break the dreaded “curse of the champions”. The past four European World Cup winners all failed to qualify from the group stage in their next tournament – France in 2002, Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014, and Germany in 2018 – and Didier Deschamps’s 2022 squad will have been glad to end that run.

In the opening stage at this year’s tournament Les Bleus qualified as group D winners, but they did lose their final match, 1-0 against Tunisia. Now facing Poland in the last 16, head coach Deschamps has warned his side to be wary of becoming the next big name to exit early from Qatar, after Germany, Belgium and Uruguay all crashed out at the group stage.

“Will there be other surprises?” said Deschamps. “I only believe what I see. Today, even a great nation, if she is not ready, can have unpleasant situations. All the games are difficult. All the teams are good and prepared. The players all play in good leagues.”

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Poland, who finished second in group C, “defend well” and have a “hardcore of players” with good experience, the French boss added. “You have to respect what this team does, they deserve to be there.”

Lewandowski: Poland will ‘give our all’

Much of the focus for Sunday’s last-16 tie at the Al Thumama Stadium will be on two of the world’s best strikers – Kylian Mbappé of France and Robert Lewandowski of Poland.

Having starred in France’s 2018 World Cup win in Russia, 23-year-old Mbappé has been in fine form again in Qatar, with three goals in the group stage. At the age of 34, Lewandowski is not just Poland’s main attacking threat, but also his country’s captain. He scored his first ever World Cup goal in the 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

After squeezing through the group stage, reaching the round of 16 is a “great achievement” for Poland, Lewandowski told ZDF. He knows that it will be “difficult” against the holders and his team-mates will need to “remain focused”. But if the Polish players “give our all”, they will “definitely have a chance”, he added.

Poland will “clearly” have to improve on their loss to Argentina, said Jonathan Gorrie in the London Evening Standard. But boasting a goalkeeper like Wojciech Szczesny and a forward like Lewandowski “makes them a dangerous opponent in knockout football”.

The winners of this last-16 encounter will face England or Senegal in the quarter-finals on Saturday 10 December at the Al Bayt Stadium.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski

Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski
(Image credit: Adam Pretty/Fifa via Getty Images)

Match facts

  • Who: France vs. Poland
  • What: Fifa World Cup round of 16
  • When: Sunday 4 December 2022
  • Where: Al Thumama Stadium
  • Kick-off time: 3pm (all times GMT)

How to watch on TV in the UK

Sunday’s last-16 clash between France and Poland will be shown live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Coverage begins at 2.30pm and the match kicks-off at 3pm.

Team news

Deschamps made nine changes as he rested players for the final group game, so should recall the big guns for the clash against Poland. Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud should start in attack for the holders. Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris will also come back in while Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot are likely to start in midfield. Theo Hernandez is a doubt with an ankle injury and Jules Kounde is one booking away from suspension.

The “big question” for Poland boss Czeslaw Michniewicz is who will start alongside Lewandowski up top, said the Independent. Arkadiusz Milik is “pushing for a start”. Jakub Kiwior, Matty Cash, Przemyslaw Frankowski and Arkadiusz Milik are one booking away from suspension.

Possible starting XIs

  • France: Hugo Lloris; Jules Kounde, Dayot Upamecano, Raphael Varane, Theo Hernandez; Aurelien Tchouameni, Adrien Rabiot, Antoine Griezmann; Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappé
  • Poland: Wojciech Szczesny; Bartosz Bereszynski, Jakub Kiwior, Kamil Glik, Matty Cash; Przemyslaw Frankowski, Sebastian Szymanski, Krystian Bielik, Piotr Zielinski; Arkadiusz Milik, Robert Lewandowski

Kylian Mbappé leads the World Cup golden boot race with five goals

Kylian Mbappé scored three times in the group stage
(Image credit: Berengui/DeFodi Images/Getty Images)


If Poland “get in the France half”, they will be “lucky”, said Chris Sutton on the BBC. They just “don’t seem able to get the ball up the pitch” to Lewandowski, who has been so isolated. This has been a World Cup of shocks so “I am asking to get egg on my face”, but this tie is only “going one way”. Prediction: France 4 Poland 0.

France “took a risk” with their team selection against Tunisia, “the effects of which we’re yet to fully comprehend”, said Michael Potts on Momentum can be “crucial” in tournament football and the mood will have been “flattened” by the 1-0 defeat. “Saying that”, Potts fully expects Kylian Mbappé to be “firing on all cylinders” and “could put Poland to the sword”. Prediction: France 2 Poland 1.

A “first-choice” French side, led by Mbappé, should have “far too much” for a Poland team who have “yet to really impress despite qualifying from their group”, said the Independent. Prediction: France 2 Poland 0.

Given Poland’s performance in the 2-0 loss against Argentina, it “seems safe to predict France will have too much for them”, said Jonathan Gorrie in the London Evening Standard. With Mbappé rested and now going for the Golden Boot, the French attack “looks a fearsome prospect”. Prediction: France 2 Poland 0.

Les Bleus should have a “fresh and well-rested” squad for the game, which “might work in their favour”, said Shubham Dupare on SportsKeeda. Taking into consideration the form of the two teams, we expect France to “face few problems” and progress to the next round. Prediction: France 2 Poland 1.

The stadium

Six group matches were held at the Al Thumama Stadium. In the knockouts the stadium will also host this last-16 game between France and Poland plus one match in the quarter-finals. According to Fifa, the 40,000-capacity stadium’s design represents the “gahfiya” – a traditional woven cap worn by men and boys across the Middle East.



  • Head coach: Didier Deschamps
  • Key player: Kylian Mbappe
  • One to watch: Aurelien Tchouameni
  • Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes)
  • Defenders: Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United), Axel Disasi (Monaco)
  • Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille)
  • Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt)
  • Injured and out of the tournament: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)


  • Head coach: Czesław Michniewicz
  • Key player: Robert Lewandowski
  • One to watch: Nicola Zalewski
  • Goalkeepers: Bartlomiej Dragowski (Spezia), Lukasz Skorupski (Bologna), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)
  • Defenders: Jan Bednarek (Aston Villa), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Matty Cash (Aston Villa), Kamil Glik (Benevento), Robert Gumny (FC Augsburg), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Jakub Kiwior (Spezia), Mateusz Wieteska (Clermont), Nicola Zalewski (Roma)
  • Midfielders: Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City), Przemyslaw Frankowski (Lens), Kamil Grosicki (Pogon Szczecin), Jakub Kaminski (VfL Wolfsburg), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Al-Shabab), Michal Skoras (Lech Poznan), Damian Szymanski (AEK Athens), Sebastian Szymanski (Feyenoord), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), Szymon Zurkowski (Fiorentina)
  • Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Arkadiusz Milik (Juventus), Krzysztof Piatek (Salernitana), Karol Swiderski (Charlotte FC)

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Mike Starling is the digital features editor at The Week, where he writes content and edits the Arts & Life and Sport website sections and the Food & Drink and Travel newsletters. He started his career in 2001 in Gloucestershire as a sports reporter and sub-editor and has held various roles as a writer and editor at news, travel and B2B publications. He has spoken at a number of sports business conferences and also worked as a consultant creating sports travel content for tourism boards. International experience includes spells living and working in Dubai, UAE; Brisbane, Australia; and Beirut, Lebanon.