France coach Didier Deschamps said Netherlands are favourites in 2018 World Cup qualifying’s Group A.
Deschamps’ men and the Dutch are the drawcards in the group, which also sees Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg competing after Saturday’s draw in St Petersburg.
After learning his team’s fate, Deschamps moved to put the favourites tag on Daley Blind’s side – despite the Dutch only beginning the Blind era in late June when predecessor Guus Hiddink was sacked after just 10 matches in charge.
“This is a strong group, compact, with good European nations,” Deschamps said, according to the French Football Federation’s website.
“Favourites are the Netherlands because they were semi-finalists of the last World Cup in Brazil, where they finished third, but there is also Sweden, Belarus, Bulgaria, which are never easy teams to play.
“There are certainly easier groups than ours in the European zone.”
France have lost three of their past four internationals – losing successive friendlies to Belgium and Albania in June to see their FIFA ranking plummet 13 spots to 22nd.
Deschamps said he did not think being unseeded cost France a tougher draw.
“It’s like that, you cannot go back. Being seeded, it can be an advantage in certain situations or not,” he said.
“But for sure it would have been better to win these matches in June.
“We knew we would have at least a tough draw.
“But there were also other good nations in other hats, such as Sweden.”
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