Didier Deschamps must exercise caution when planning France’s World Cup defense in Qatar
Several million French citizens will listen to Wednesday’s newscast on TF1, France’s public broadcaster, with particular interest. It has become a tradition for the coach of the national team to announce, live and to as many people as possible, the names of the players who will represent the Blues at the World Cups.
This ritual setting is not necessarily a good omen. In 2010, when the French Federation established live unveiling of World Cup squads at peak times, named players within weeks staged a strike, refusing to train at their ill-fated training base. and turmoil in South Africa.
Didier Deschamps, appointed coach of the next World Cup tournament, was still grappling with the fallout from that toxic campaign four years later.
By the time of the Russian tournament in 2018, Deschamps felt more confident in his men. When he listed this team, a party with notable omissions, he felt they could go far. He’s heading into his third World Cup as a coach – and his fourth overall; he captained the winners of France in 1998 – in charge of the defending champions.
How many of these champions he takes to Qatar is uncertain. Twenty-four hours before Deschamps reads his pick of 26 – or maybe 25; he can’t use the full expanded Fifa allowance if he suspects an outfielder in the background might be grumpy about only being on the bench all along – he was still checking for fitness issues important.
Among them is Raphael Varane, who two and a half weeks ago limped off the pitch in Manchester United’s draw at Chelsea in tears. He feared that a sharp pain in his thigh would put his World Cup in jeopardy. Varane will not play in any of United’s remaining fixtures before the break from club football for the Qatar tournament, but has told Deschamps that his recovery is progressing well.
Deschamps likes Varane, a pillar of the Blues defense in Russia, and he knows full well why the player felt so upset when he was injured against Chelsea. In 2016, Deschamps had to exclude Varane from his squad for the European Championship, a tournament held in France, as the defender suffered a muscle injury during the preparation for the tournament.
The coach has a strict line. “With my accumulated experience,” said Deschamps, referring to his playing and managerial career, “I know you should never leave [for a tournament] with any player who is not ready to start the first match.
N’Golo Kante, with a hamstring problem, and Paul Pogba, whose knee injury and subsequent complications prevented him from making his debut for Juventus, who he joined from United in the summer, are definitely excluded from the bid to win successive World Cups. Their absences mean the heart of the Blues midfielder from 2018 success must be replaced.
Juve’s Adrien Rabiot will take on some of their responsibilities. When his name is read, a curious journey will have been accomplished. Four years ago, Rabiot was named a reserve reserve, in the event of a late injury to one of the 23 named in the Russian team. He refused to be considered, which led to a period of exile from France’s plans and a frosty relationship with Deschamps.
Rabiot is not the only Blue with a troubled history with the manager. Karim Benzema only returned to the competition 20 months ago after five years of absence, the result of a serious falling out with Deschamps.
Ballon D’Or holder Benzema is now causing another headache. He has missed eight Real Madrid games this season due to muscle problems and was left out of training for Monday’s defeat at Rayo Vallecano.
Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe has meanwhile been fit enough for just 70 minutes of action in the past two months, Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez for just 26 minutes since mid-September, and Wesley Fofana no at all since he injured his knee. to play for Chelsea in early October.
With Barcelona’s Jules Kounde also struggling with his fitness, these are four potential defensive partners of – or replacements for – Varane bearing question marks. Compensation is provided in the recent form of Arsenal’s William Saliba.
Likewise, if Benzema is running cautiously, there has been good news for Deschamps in Olivier Giroud’s recent exploits for AC Milan. Giroud at centre-forward, with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann playing against him, was a fixture at Russia 2018 even though he went scoreless at that World Cup.
His place in the hierarchy has slipped with the international return of Benzema, but Giroud is timeless. At 35, he is aiming for the absolute goalscoring record for France. He needs three to overtake Thierry Henry’s 51. He’s aiming for the sport’s biggest event as a step towards reaching that landmark.
Updated: 09 November 2022, 02:53