France U-20 Stars Who Could Crack the Senior Squad in Time for the World Cup
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France’s 4-0 win over Uzbekistan in Saturday’s FIFA U-20 World Cup quarterfinal ensured Les Bleuets will at least match their best performance of two years ago when they finished fourth at the 2011 instalment of this competition in Colombia.
Two of the players from that squad have already been capped in Didier Deschamps’ senior setup, and both—midfielder Clement Grenier and forward Alexandre Lacazette—were included in Deschamps’ roster for recent friendlies against Uruguay and Brazil.
There’s an argument to be made that France’s 2013 U-20 side is even stronger than the one that beat South Korea, Mali, Nigeria and Ecuador before losing at the semifinal stage against Portugal and again in the third-place match against Mexico, and with that in mind perhaps two or three of the current U-20 internationals could graduate to Deschamps’ squad in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup.
Lucas Digne would appear to be the player most likely to make the leap.
The 19-year-old left-back has already played a full season of top-flight football with Ligue 1 side Lille and has been one of France’s best players at this U-20 World Cup in Turkey, if not its best.
Clever and patient in attack and quick and calculated in defense, he also happens to play a position that has been a trouble spot for Deschamps in recent months. Manchester United’s Patrice Evra is only occasionally called up these days and in France’s recent friendlies Deschamps’ two left-backs were Valencia’s Jeremy Mathieu and Bordeaux’s Benoit Tremoulinas.
Another solid campaign from Digne, who will turn 20 later this month, would almost certainly put him in the conversation for a regular place in the senior side heading into a World Cup year.
The same could be said for Paul Pogba.
As a matter of fact, the Juventus midfielder has already been capped twice for France—both appearances coming in World Cup qualifiers.
Despite being just 20-years-old, Pogba possesses that rare ability to run the show from the centre of the park that France enjoyed from Patrick Vieira for so long, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if another eye-catching season for the Bianconeri saw him start to get regular minutes in the France midfield.
Deschamps used a Yohan Cabaye-Blaise Matuidi-Paul Pogba midfield trio against Spain in March, and that combination could well be what he proceeds with for upcoming qualifiers and a prospective playoff tie.
Finally, Yaya Sanogo’s showing at this U-20 World Cup could end up catapulting the 20-year-old into the senior France squad over the next few months.
That Deschamps is in desperate need of offensive production is no surprise, and with Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Bafetimbi Gomis having combined for a paltry 21 goals from 89 appearances, the 44-year-old will welcome all the goalscoring capability he can get.
Sanogo has bagged four goals in Turkey so far and is also the sort of athletic, playmaking forward who can turn his attack-minded teammates into offensive weapons.
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