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Predicting a France Starting XI for World Cup 2014

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2013

Predicting a France Starting XI for World Cup 2014

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    Looking ahead to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it is clear that a number of Didier Deschamps' preferred options for les Bleus will have reached maturity by that stage. That will likely give the former Juventus, Monaco and Marseille coach a strong squad that could compete for the title, assuming the individuals continue on their current trajectory.

    One thing that has always undermined France when going into major international tournaments has been a lack of team spirit and a minimal if non-existent sense of unity.

    Deschamps knows that les Bleus need to overcome this if they are ever to recognise their full potential on the international stage once again. To offset this, he has concentrated on selecting domestic-based players where possible given their familiarity with one another.

    Add to that some troubled elements including Yann M'Vila, Samir Nasri and Andre-Pierre Gignac, and Deschamps' XI starts picking itself. With the likes of Yohan Cabaye unlikely to be able to hold down a regular starting position given injury, form issues, and the improving abilities of his Ligue 1-based competition, there arises some competition for places within the side.

    That said, it isn't too much competition.

    It seems Deschamps already has a firm idea of who figures in his plans even at this early stage, what will be most intriguing is if he perseveres with certain underperforming elements from France's foreign-based contingent.

Goalkeeper

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    Hugo Lloris

    Tottenham's French international custodian will be 27 by the time the tournament rolls around. You'd have to assume that given the lack of options currently available, he will still be captain in Brazil.

    France's most talented netminder and one of Europe's best by far; Lloris is almost indispensable regardless of who is in charge of les Bleus.

    Peerless on the pitch and quiet, but influential off it, Lloris' role will be important in 2014.

Defender

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    Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa

    Set to become part of Newcastle's Gallic contingent, Yanga-Mbiwa has quickly become a reliable presence for Deschamps in his early tenure. Partnered with Paris Saint-Germain star Mamadou Sakho, the former Montpellier man would be the coach's preferred starter, it seems, ahead of Adil Rami who is less technically gifted.

    Philippe Mexes was one of the cornerstones of Laurent Blanc's side, but Deschamps has disposed of him and has opted for youth. In the long-term he will be rewarded, it is a question of waiting and seeing, though, with regards to Brazil, whether that gamble has already paid off.

    He will be 25 by the time the competition starts and well on his way to becoming a world-renown defender.

Defender

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    Mamadou Sakho

    The same, too, could be said for Sakho, but a lot will depend on his club form and how often he plays.

    An undisputed starter for Deschamps currently, Sakho has not been an automatic choice for PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti since the arrival of Thiago Silva. If he is Silva's regular partner by this point, then he will be on the plane barring injury or a drunk and disorderly debacle a la Yann M'Vila.

    If not, then a move to another big European club could keep him in contention. But so long as he is playing regularly for PSG, even if it is not every week, then it seems likely that Deschamps will have him pegged as a starter.

    Sakho would be 24 come kickoff; he and Yanga-Mbiwa are viewed as the future and rightly so. With Deschamps set to lead les Bleus in 2016 on home soil, expect that relationship to be given every opportunity to thrive.

Defender

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    Mathieu Debuchy

    Newcastle's attacking right-back has excelled since being given the chance in place of Arsenal's Bacary Sagna when injured. Expect Debuchy to keep his place from now on.

    This is one of the positions that Deschamps is more flexible with, but given Sagna's age and his preference for youth, expect the World Cup and European Championship winner to stick with Debuchy.

    Debuchy will be 28 in Brazil and approaching his prime, and on current form he'll be a starter.

Defender

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    Gael Clichy

    Usurped Patrice Evra at left-back during the European Championships, but the Manchester United defender has retained his place in Deschamps' selections thus far.

    Given his focus on youth though, and Evra's consistent failure to carry his club form onto the international stage, Clichy will surely make the position his own sooner rather than later.

    Clichy faces competition from Ligue 1-based Benoit Tremoulinas of Bordeaux but has the edge over him given his experience. At 28 when the tournament gets underway, he will be five years younger than Evra and the same age as Tremoulinas.

Midfielder

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    Blaise Matuidi

    Matuidi has excelled for club and country over the past 12 months, and his recent performance in the qualifier in Spain illustrated his immense promise.

    Given the progress being made by Etienne Capoue and Matuidi's development into an all-rounder, it will likely decrease Yohan Cabaye's value to Deschamps' plans and relegate him to the bench in favour of the Ligue 1 pair.

    Matuidi will be 27 in Brazil and approaching his prime. If his development continues on its current trajectory, the PSG man will be a big player for les Bleus in South America.

Midfielder

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    Etienne Capoue

    Matuidi's midfield partner looks likely to be Capoue, whose defensive qualities allow the PSG man to roam forward more.

    Capable of scoring himself, the Toulouse midfielder has become an important part of Deschamps' team and has filled the void left by Yann M'Vila more than adequately.

    He'll be 25 in 2014, more than capable of handling the pressure of starting for les Bleus and with Maxime Gonalons as backup, Deschamps' options all of a sudden look very rosy.

Midfielder

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    Franck Ribery

    Arguably France's most skilful player but also one of the most enigmatic, Ribery still is yet to perform consistently on the international stage. With Mathieu Valbuena now breathing down his neck, he could find his position in Brazil in jeopardy if "le Petit Velo" continues to deliver in important games.

    An in-form Ribery is unstoppable, but how many times have we seen that for les Bleus?

    Not enough.

    The Bayern Munich man will be 31 by the time the team  in Brazil, arguably Ribery's last international chance to prove himself. 

Midfielder

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    Jeremy Menez

    PSG's mercurial attacking talent offers a rare direct threat for Deschamps' side from the right and his presence in the squad will be important given his ability to now play as a second striker as he does for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

    Frustratingly inconsistent domestically but reliable internationally, Deschamps is more likely to gamble on Menez than Laurent Blanc was in Ukraine and Poland when overlooked in the exit to Spain.

    The former Roma man will be 27 come 2014, at an ideal point in his career to cement his place in Deschamps' plans for the World Cup and then the Euros on home soil.

Striker

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    Karim Benzema

    Real Madrid's Karim Benzema is arguably the biggest enigma in recent French international football history. Prolific at club level for Lyon and then Real Madrid (admittedly not this season) but tepid in form when wearing blue, Benzema's absence from the national team should perhaps be extended so that he builds up an appetite for international football once again.

    Perhaps now best thought of as a potential No. 10 instead of an out-and-out striker, Benzema's tendency to drop deep for the ball would arguably benefit Deschamps and give him the option to employ the Madrid man behind the predatory Olivier Giroud.

    Benzema will be 26 in Brazil and far from finished internationally.

    His failure to embrace his role as France's talisman, though, means he can't be relied upon for goals at international level. A switch in role is perhaps needed to guarantee his future in Deschamps' squad.

Striker

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    Olivier Giroud

    Likely to be France's main goal threat in Brazil and then during the Euros on home soil, Giroud needs to become the striker that Benzema seems unable to be internationally.

    He would potentially thrive on the service that the Real Madrid man could provide from midfield and service from Ribery and Menez would likely result in goals if the ball falls to the Arsenal striker.

    Yet to show his prolific best from his Montpellier days in the Premier League, Giroud will be 27 at this stage and primed for dominance. 

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