To watch the French national team is to watch one of the finest collections of footballing talent the world game has to offer. The reigning World Cup champions won a drama-filled 2018 tournament, and striker Kylian Mbappé has fully announced his presence as one of the most dynamic strikers in the world.
Recent years have brought some changes within the Blues. After nearly six years banned for his alleged involvement in a blackmail scandal against a team-mate, striker Karim Benzema has been reintroduced for the 2020 European Championship. But the French have faltered even with the added attacking expertise, imploding in the final 10 minutes only to lose on kicks to Switzerland in the round of 16.
France mostly went through a relatively light qualifying group. Some setbacks in the UEFA Nations League (losses to Denmark and Croatia) may give cause for concern, and a reported potential rift between Mbappé and Paul Pogba has been played down and eased. The defending champions have exited in the group stages at four of the last five men’s World Cups. But the general feeling remains: even with just 11 of the players who won it four years ago making the trip to Qatar, if this group can gel as well as they did in Russia, it will be just as fierce. of a competitor in Qatar.
Group D schedule (all times Eastern)
– Australia, Nov. 22, 2 p.m.
– Denmark, November 26, 11 a.m.
– Tunisia, Nov. 30, 10 a.m.
Didier Deschampshired in July 2012
Players to watch
Kylian Mbappé, striker
The undisputed face of the present and future of French football has already achieved World Cup stardom by winning the tournament’s best young player award in 2018. Mbappé has the pace and skills to transform almost any defender of the world in knots. If he is allowed to make one of his charge runs behind the defense, no one catches him.
Karim Benzema, striker
The reigning Ballon d’Or winner was in as good shape as he had been throughout his career, until a quad injury in early September set him back. His career-high 27 goals in La Liga last season led Real Madrid to another league title, and his performance in the Champions League (competition-best 15 goals) proved crucial in the race for the title. his team’s dramatic title. Benzema’s world-class finishing ability and movement will only continue to strengthen one of the most devastating attacks in the world. He led France with four goals at Euro 2020.
Hugo Lloris, goalkeeper
The regular rock in goal will likely break the record for the most capped French player of all time in Qatar (he is ahead of Lilian Thuram by three). Although he is no longer considered one of the best shooters in the world, Lloris is still as consistent as possible. He already has seven clean sheets to his name in 14 World Cup starts, and he will be looking to add to that tally in a very winnable group.
Candidate in small groups
Aurélien Tchouaméni, midfielder
Somehow, European champions Real Madrid have found a way to improve (and rejuvenate) this transfer window by adding 22-year-old Tchouaméni. One of the few young stars in recent years to start breaking into a busy France team, he finished last year in Monaco in the top 10 of Ligue 1 in successful tackles and successful pressures and ranked n ° 1 interceptions. In other words, he was one of the best defensive midfielders in all of France and thus played his way into his country’s World Cup and UEFA Nations League qualifying squads.
Tchouaméni was an instant starter at Madrid following the departure of Casemiro, the midfield’s longtime defensive anchor. He has come to life well so far in a more competitive league in Spain, and that was all he needed to secure his place in Qatar.
With N’Golo Kanté and Pogba ruled out through injury, Tchouaméni could have an important role to play in France’s quest to become the first repeat champions since Brazil 60 years ago.
World Cup history
– 16th appearance
– Last appearance: 2018 (Champion)
– Best result: Champion in 1998 and 2018
Outlook and expectations
Events in the transfer market this summer have reintroduced the idea of possible turmoil within the national team. Mbappé’s transfer saga, which ultimately saw him fend off Benzema’s Real Madrid to return to PSG on a massive contract, sparked rumors that the relationship between the two superstar forwards had turned sour. Benzema put them to bed in May, saying ‘he’s not disappointed’ and it shouldn’t affect their partnership. Then, months later, reports surfaced that Mbappé already wanted to leave PSG, reports which the player denied.
Yet the drama itself underscores perhaps the one thing that can bother France. It’s not a perfect team, but it’s probably the most complete, except for a certain lack of stars right and left. This squad is experienced, with a manager and a number of players who won it all in 2018. The only issue will be whether the squad can mesh together like they did four years ago.
The Euro collapse against Switzerland was a prime example of where sheer talent couldn’t get France across the line. Pogba scored a World Cup to give the Blues a 3-1 lead in the 75th minute, and it looked like the team were destined for another deep tournament. But Pogba (among others) was slow to come back as Switzerland salvaged a goal in the 81st minute, then the French fell asleep on a counter-attack in the 90th before their fate was sealed with a penalty shootout .
While Denmark are definitely in trouble, as evidenced by their run to the Euro 2020 semi-finals and two Nations League matches, France are expected to win Group D with ease. From there, Deschamps’ side should be among the favorites to win it all and repeat as champions. The biggest thing that could embarrass France – not for the first time – is itself.
World Cup team
GUARDIANS: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes)
DEFENDERS: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Ibrahima Konaté (Liverpool), Jules Koundé (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United)
MIDFIELDS: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Mattéo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurélien Tchouaméni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille)
FORWARDERS: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)
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