Paris (AFP) – There will be a poignant mood at the Stade de France on Friday as France host Sweden in a World Cup qualifier a year on from the Paris terror attacks.
It was on Friday, November 13 last year that France were playing Germany at the same stadium in a friendly when three suicide bombers blew themselves up immediately outside the ground.
A 63-year-old man, Manuel Dias, was killed by one of the explosions at the beginning of a night of terror around the French capital which killed 130 people and left hundreds more injured.
“It was a tragic event but we must always look forward and try to turn the page, even if what happened will stay with us for the rest of our lives,” admitted France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris on Thursday.
He was in the France team that night for a game that was played to its conclusion — and won 2-0 by Les Bleus — despite the scale of the unfolding tragedy becoming clear. He also played in an emotional 2-0 friendly loss in England a few days later.
“Nobody can forget what happened that night, after the match and the days that followed it, up until the game in England. They were days that were filled with emotion. It will go down in history, in a negative sense,” admitted France coach Didier Deschamps.
There will be a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack and French president Francois Hollande will be in attendance at the Stade de France for the 2018 World Cup qualifying fixture with the Swedes.
The two teams come into the match level on seven points after three games at the top of Group A, with only the group winners progressing automatically to the finals in Russia.
Euro 2016 runners-up France started with a goalless draw in Belarus but beat Bulgaria at home and the Netherlands away last month to get their campaign up and running.
– Giroud or Gameiro? –
Deschamps has been hit by injuries to his squad ahead of Friday’s match, however, with Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti ruled out due to a hamstring injury and replaced by Eliaquim Mangala.
Veteran left-back Patrice Evra has returned in the absence of Layvin Kurzawa and Monaco’s Thomas Lemar was a late addition on Thursday after Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman withdrew.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has also been recalled and is competing with Atletico Madrid’s Kevin Gameiro for a place alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.
France are the group favourites and a win will set them up nicely at the top of the section with their next match not until late March, in Luxembourg.
“We have a clear objective, which is first place,” said Lloris when asked if his side would have one foot in Russia with a victory.
“There are a lot of matches still to come. It is too early to say. But it would be ideal in terms of going into October 2017 without pressure. If we win it would be an extra step.”
Sweden last visited the Stade de France as recently as June, when they drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland at the start of a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign.
Since then their all-time top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic has retired from international football and Janne Andersson has been appointed coach.
They are in a period of transition but have so far drawn at home to the Netherlands and beaten both Luxembourg and Bulgaria.
“Zlatan took his decision to quit the national team a while ago and we had already prepared for the future,” said Andersson, 54.
“We have already played three matches, including against the Netherlands. We are going through a period of rebuilding but it is starting to bear fruit with our recent victories.”
Defenders Martin Olsson and Mikael Lustig and the striker Marcus Berg are all on the sidelines for Sweden.
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