France have confirmed a 25-man squad for the World Cup, including Manchester United’s Raphael Varane and Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate.
The defending champions will once again be among the favorites in Qatar but Didier Deschamps has been hampered by a series of injuries heading into the tournament.
Key midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante were ruled out of the World Cup but defenders Raphael Varane, Lucas Hernandez and Presnel Kimpembe shrugged off fitness issues to get involved.
The two-time winners have also stuttered in terms of recent form, winning just one of their last six matches.
They start their World Cup campaign against Australia on November 22, before facing Denmark on November 26 and Tunisia on November 30.
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Analysis of the French team
Dom Fifield Athletics:
Didier Deschamps opted to call up 25 players for France’s World Cup defence, and only extended beyond his preferred squad size of 23 as a concession that injury doubts still linger over a number of people on the move.
The national coach, who announced his choices on TF1’s 8 p.m. news on Wednesday evening as he had done before the last four major tournaments, went against his best instincts by including Manchester United defender Raphael Varane.
Deschamps has previously insisted that all players heading to a major must be fit enough to start the team’s first game, although in Varane’s case he made an exception – a reflection the status of the center half within the national configuration.
The 29-year-old hasn’t been involved since sustaining a hamstring injury with Manchester United at Chelsea on October 22. Although he won’t play for his club before joining the national team, he is optimistic that Varane will be able to train with his international teammates next week.
There are concerns about the physical condition of Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe, who has started a game since September 10 and continues to be troubled by a complaint from Achilles. Kimpembe hopes to train at PSG on Thursday and has targeted playing time in Sunday’s Ligue 1 game against Auxerre.
Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan has failed to recover from a calf problem – Rennes’ Steve Mandanda and West Ham’s Alphonse Areoloa will serve as substitutes for Hugo Lloris – while the decision not to select Jonathan Class from Marseille has interpreted as Deschamps’ return from his recent 3-4-1-2 formation to the successful 4-2-3-1 in 2018.
Yet Deschamps admitted selecting this side was “far from easy”, with injury having deprived him of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, whose midfield partnership was so instrumental in winning the trophy in Russia four years ago.
The focus will be on Real Madrid midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, who has established himself as a starter in the absence of the more experienced duo. His teenage teammate Eduardo Camavinga made the cut despite winning just one cap in the past two years.
The French challenge will be led by PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema. Veteran Milan striker Olivier Giroud, who is two goals shy of Thierry Henry’s national record of 51, has been chosen for his third World Cup.
The players will travel to the national training base of Clairefontaine, in the Paris suburbs, next Monday at noon to begin their proper preparations for the tournament. The French delegation is due to fly to Doha on Wednesday morning, six days before its first pool match, where it will be based at the Al-Messila complex on the outskirts of the capital.
They will train for the first time at the Al-Sadd ground, a 15-minute drive from the team hotel, on Thursday. National teams are due to submit their finalized rosters to FIFA next Monday evening (November 14), but changes can still be made up to 24 hours before a team’s first game in the tournament if players succumb to a injury in the meantime.
This means France have until November 21, 24 hours before their opener against Australia, to make further changes. Deschamps should request that a reserve list remain pending until this deadline.
The France World Cup team
Guardians: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes).
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich ), Raphael Varane (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurélien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille).
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).
(Photo: Getty Images)