Available at no bigger than 7/1 in the outright betting, France are very much one of the favourites to lift the FIFA World Cup this summer, as is so often the case. Les Bleus weren’t overly impressive at the last World Cup, but they have featured in two of the last five finals, while they got within touching distance of winning the Euros back in 2016 when denied by Portugal in the final.
For many years, whether it be Platini and le carré magique in the 1980’s or the 1998 World Cup winning squad that contained greats such as Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry, the French have almost always gone into major tournaments with a talent filled squd and the current crop is no different.
Unlike other national team managers, Didier Deschamps didn’t see the need to name a preliminary squad ahead of the summer’s tournament in Russia and instead went straight ahead and announced his final 23-man squad on Thursday evening.
Check out our World Cup 2018: Potential Breakout Stars in Russia to see which up and coming players we feel will make a name for themselves on the big stage!
Manager – Didier Deschamps
Hugo LLORIS (Tottenham)
Alphonse AREOLA (PSG)
Steve MANDANDA (Marseille)
Lucas HERNANDEZ (Atletico Madrid)
Presnel KIMPEMBE (PSG)
Benjamin MENDY (Manchester City)
Benjamin PAVARD (Stuttgart)
Adil RAMI (Marseille)
Djibril SIDIBE (Monaco)
Samuel UMTITI (Barcelona)
Raphael VARANE (Real Madrid)
N’Golo KANTE (Chelsea)
Blaise MATUIDI (Juventus)
Steven N’ZONZI (Sevilla)
Paul POGBA (Manchester United)
Corentin TOLISSO (Bayern Munich)
Ousmane DEMBELE (Barcelona)
Nabil FEKIR (Lyon)
Olivier GIROUD (Chelsea)
Antoine GRIEZMANN (Atletico Madrid)
Thomas LEMAR (Monaco)
Kylian MBAPPE (PSG)
Florian THAUVIN (Marseille)
On the face of it, France have a very strong collective. Deschamps has assembled a squad that has big names in almost every area, while it’s also a squad that has a blend of both technical players and physical players. Going through the list, it’s easy to see that France have pace and power in abundance, though they’re not short when it comes to creativity and flair either.
In terms of the exact personnel chosen by Deschamps, there weren’t too many surprises. Steven N’Zonzi of Sevilla was a reasonably eye-catching addition, especially since the 29-year-old only has two caps to his name, while Benjamin Mendy, who has spent the entire season out injured, was another slightly controversial decision.
Anthony Martial and Alexandre Lacazette, both of whom featured at the European Championships in 2016, were the most notable of those left out, while the likes Laurent Koscielny and Dimitri Payet missed out through injury. Karim Benzema was never likely to feature having been frozen out by the manager back in 2015, though players such as Wissam Ben Yedder and Adrien Rabiot, both of whom have done well at club level this season, will count themselves a little unlucky not to make it.
Experience is always crucial at big tournaments. It’s ok having youthful players who will show no fear, but you need wise heads, players who know how to handle the pressure at major tournaments. This may just be one area where the French fall down slightly. They do have players such as captain Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud who’ve been to the World Cup before, though most of their squad will experience footballs’ biggest competition for the first time. In fact, only seven of France’s 23 have played at a World Cup before, while Hugo Lloris is the only player to have played at two World Cups.
13 of France’s squad have never competed at a major tournament before. At the end of the day, ability and effectiveness on the pitch is the most important thing, and Deschamps clearly feels that each of those selected will bring a certain something, though there can be no denying that a lack of big-stage experience is concerning. It will be interesting to see how this relatively inexperienced squad fares in Russia.
Star Player – Antoine Griezmann
When it comes to the big teams, barring Portugal and Argentina, who of course have Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in their ranks, opinions vary will when it comes the star player, though based on the performances of the individuals who’ve been selected to play for France over the last few years, you’d be hard pushed to find many people who’d name anyone other than Antoine Griezmann as the main man for Les Bleus.
Having broken into France’s squad for the 2014 World Cup thanks to his standout performances for Real Sociedad in La Liga, Antoine Griezmann has spent the last four years climbing right tothe very top of the footballing ladder. Prior to the 2014 renewal of this prestigious tournament, not too many people outside of Spain would’ve known much about Griezmann, but the 27-year-old forward is now thought as one of the world’s best.
Since joining Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2014, Griezmann, who has scored an impressive 79 goals in 142 appearances for Atleti, has been one of the most impressive players at club level, while he has also shined for his country. Having featured prominently during Euro 2016, where he scooped both the Golden Boot and the Player of the Tournament award, the forward, who has a somewhat unique style of play in that he is both adept at coming short to feet or spinning in behind as the last man, is expected to once again be the leading light for France on the big stage. If the French are to have any success in Russia, Griezmann will almost definitely be the catalyst.
One to Watch – Kylian Mbappe
Having moved to PSG for a fee reported to be in the region 180 million euros last summer, Kylian Mbappe isn’t the archetypal figure to feature in a ‘one to watch’ section, though it’s important to remember that the 19-year-old is still a fledgling professional, one who is very much a player for the future.
Having made his name last season with Monaco, bursting forward at devastating speeds, taking on defenders and leaving them in his wake, exciting forward Mbappe is backed to star for France at his first ever major tournament.
Ever since making his debut for the national team in 2017, Mbappe, despite his age, was always going to be in the final squad. The teenager has a direct nature that is extremely hard to defend against. The PSG man, who scored 13 goals in 27 appearances at club level this season, is expected to start most games, but even if he’s kept in reserve Deschamps will be able to call upon a player whose raw pace, quick dribbling and sheer athleticism can turn a game on its head.
Don’t forget to check out World Cup 2018 by Numbers: The Best And Worst Performers in Qualifying
Given the strength of their squad, in terms of how they line-up, Deschamps will have much to ponder between now and June.
With contrasting forwards named in the squad, a lot could depend on what type of attacking players the manager prefers to start with. For example, having seen Griezmann link up well with Diego Costa at club level, Deschamps may choose to pair Les Bleus’ talisman with (or behind) a taller striker such as Olivier Giroud. This would likely mean that two of Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar would fill the wide roles, leaving two of Kante, Pogba and Matuidi as sitting midfielders.
Alternatively, as was the case in their most recent friendly, Deschamps could opt for a 4-3-3 formation that could end up looking something like this:
Lloris; Hernandez, Varane, Umtiti, Pavard; Pogba, Kante, Matuidi; Mbappe, Dembele, Griezmann.
Overall, France have a squad that can be described as dangerous to dismiss. The Brazilian, German and Spanish squads all probably have more of trophy-winning look to them, but the French simply cannot be discounted. They have pace, power and athleticism in abundance and with an intelligent goal-scorer like Griezmann leading their line, Les Bleus can definitely do some damage in Russia.
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