World Cup 2018: France is going to Russia with the intent to conquer
Whisper it in a quiet place or should it on the rooftops, France is coming to Russia 2018 with global conquest the only thing on the team’s agenda.
The disappointment of losing the Euro 2016 final on home soil to a not-so-impressive Portugal team still rankles and Didier Deschamps and his Les Bleus side will be looking to make things right and go one better at the FIFA World Cup.
Deschamps who himself was captain of the victorious team when the nation won its first World Cup in 1998 has stirred up lots of conversations about the squad which he named to execute the World Cup campaign.
The French are favourites in the eyes of many pundits and this is due mostly to the quality of the squad as the team has fantastic talent across all positions which will be the envy of many teams at the World Cup.
The 23-man squad named by the 49-year-old former Juventus star has a good mix of experienced campaigners, young talent, and players who have won big titles at club level and will be capable of handling the pressure.
Tottenham Hotspur's Hugo Lloris has been the number one choice as goalkeeper (and later captain) ever since Deschamps took the job in 2012 and that is not expected to change at Russia 2018.
PSG’s Alphonse Areola and Olympique Marseille’s Steve Mandanda will be the other goalies in the team as this tournament has come too early for Toulouse’s Alban Lafont.
France has very good quality in the centre of defence and despite the injury which has ruled Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny; Deschamps has named a good quartet that has the qualities needed to propel the team towards glory.
Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and FC Barcelona stalwart Samuel Umtiti are expected to the first choice pairing for Les Bleus and on paper looks to be a solid duo that will offer adequate cover for Lloris.
PSG’s Prsenel Kimpembe whose star has really risen in the last two seasons is expected to be the third choice while the senior citizen of the chosen quartet: Olympique Marseille’s Adil Rami is expected to add experience from the bench.
The dropping of PSG’s Layvin Kurzawa may have been surprising to people who do not watch Ligue 1 games regularly and Barcelona’s Lucas Digne has hardly featured this season. Despite just returning from a long injury layoff, Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy makes the team while there is a place at left-back for Atletico Madrid’s Lucas Hernandez who is nominally a centre-back but has played on the left for his Europa League winning team.
AS Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe has become the first choice right-back since after the Euros and he is expected to continue in this role at the World Cup with VfB Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard as the backup.
France’s choices for the centre of its midfield are quite rich (not exactly Spain-rich but close enough) and the ones chosen for the World Cup are quality players who should do the nation proud.
Valencia’s Geoffrey Kondogbia and PSG’s Adrien Rabiot would have been disappointed with their exclusion but the players picked by the manager are also excellent and should do the business for the team.
Tireless runners and workers N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla) and Blaise Matuidi (Juventus) will provide energy, defensive nous, aggression, and work rate while Manchester United’s Paul Pogba will be tasked with creative functions as well as driving the team forward.
In the event that the mercurial Premier League star is unavailable, Deschamps would be able to call on the equally impressive Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich).
One of the most impressive players in Ligue 1 in the just concluded season, Olympique Marseille’s Florian Thauvin would be tasked with providing crosses, assists, and goals from the flanks; ditto for Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco) despite his less-than-stellar club form.
Olympique Lyon captain Nabil Fekir is capable of playing a variety of positions and will offer the French team a creative option either behind the main striker or even on the flanks.
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla), Anthony Martial (Manchester United) are just three of the quality forward talent left out of France’s World Cup team.
Favourite child, Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) is expected to spearhead the attack and will be playing just in front of France’s deadliest attacking threat; Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Greizmann. The left-footed genius is expected to be one of the stars at Russia 2018 and he would want a repeat of Euro 2016 where he won the tournament’s Golden Boot.
The Number 10 jersey is the Holy Grail of French football given the illustrious names that have worn it before (Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane among others). Much will be expected of its current owner; Kylian Mbappe (PSG) who has for a while been regarded as one of the world’s premier young talents.
Big things will also be expected of Mbappe’s fellow tyro; Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele and given both players’ price tags, the twin terrors will be marked men at the World Cup.
This France side is still a work-in-progress but if Deschamps can get his tactics and selection right, Les Bleus might just get its second taste of success on the biggest stage.