5 French Players Who Could Make a Late Push for a World Cup Place
When Didier Deschamps named his 24-man squad for the friendly against Netherlands last month, there were very few surprises on the list. The squad had a very balanced look to it, and the general consensus was that this would be close to the 23 players that he would take to Brazil this summer.
However, injuries and form will always open the door for one or two players to make a late charge. With that in mind, here are five players desperately knocking on the door for a chance to book that last-minute spot on the Brazil-bound plane.
Samir Nasri: Manchester City
For some, Samir Nasri’s name was surprisingly missing when Deschamps named his squad for the latest friendly. However, many believe he shouldn’t be mentioned anywhere near the national team. The doubts behind Nasri are nothing to do with his quality on the pitch—they are purely down to the Manchester City midfielder’s attitude.
He may be able to behave over a few days for a friendly, but his past behaviour makes him a potential time bomb when placed inside a squad for a number of weeks. After the complete breakdown of the squad harmony in South Africa, it’s a risk that Deschamps won’t want to take to Brazil.
Nasri is not giving up, though. His form for Manchester City has been impressive of late, and it was just after he was excluded from the Netherlands game that he scored that absolutely magnificent goal against Sunderland in the League Cup final.
Deschamps is being forced to sit up and take notice of the 26-year-old.
It has mostly been the form of Marseille playmaker, Mathieu Valbuena, that has kept Nasri out of the squad, but the diminutive midfielder has struggled at times this season. Despite this, Valbuena is still seen as a guaranteed pick for this summer. However, if his dip in form continues, it could lead to Deschamps reassessing Nasri’s current position.
If City go on to lift the Premier League title, with Nasri playing at the top of his game, it could be hard to ignore the former Arsenal midfielder.
Alexandre Lacazette: Olympique Lyonnais
The 22-year-old forward has scored 13 goals this season, making him the highest-scoring French player in Ligue 1. However, that has not been enough for the Lyon striker to force his way into Deschamps’s squad.
Behind Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, there is perhaps only space for one more central striker, and that player also needs to be versatile enough able to play in the wide-right role. It seems tailor-made for Lacazette, but for now he is behind Newcastle United’s Loic Remy in the pecking order, and only a late surge will give him a chance to overtake the former Marseille forward.
Remy has also scored 13 goals this season, and with his scoring exploits coming in the Premier League, it gives him a slight edge over Lacazette. Remy’s recent injury has opened a window for Lacazette, and the Lyon forward’s heroics in the Europa League will have helped his cause. This is also the first season that the former Under-21 international has played centrally, with the majority of his early Lyon days played wide on the right.
He is the perfect player to play back-up to Giroud and Benzema—he would add versatility and vibrancy to Deschamps squad. Now he just has to find a way past Remy and onto the plane.
Geoffrey Kondogbia: AS Monaco
It is a position in which France has more options than most countries in the world, but is also a position genuinely up for grabs. Lille’s Rio Mavuba had to drop out of the squad for the Netherlands clash due to injury, but his replacement, Josuha Guilavogui, hasn’t performed well enough to cement that place. Now the potential suitors are lining up to take his place.
Since the turn of the year, the 21-year-old all-action midfielder has begun to put his stamp on the Monaco midfield. Playing in Claudio Ranieri’s diamond formation, the Under-20 World Cup winner has done what he does best. He is strong in the tackle, powerful going forward and adds an impressive eye for a pass.
With one eye on Euro 2016, Deschamps should seriously consider taking Kondogbia to Brazil this summer.
Maxime Gonalons: Olympique Lyonnais
Another player vying for the open midfield slot is Lyon enforcer Maxime Gonalons. The OL captain is enjoying another stellar season, although he was slightly affected by the rumours heavily linking him with a move to Italian side Napoli—according to Football Italia, Napoli bid €13 million for the midfielder in January. Since then, he has bounced back and helped Lyon join the fight to represent Ligue 1 in Europe next season.
Lyon’s 25-year-old captain is not only one of the best defensive midfielders in France, he is also one of the best passing midfielders in Ligue 1. Everything that Lyon does inevitably goes through Gonalons. He is now at the peak of his career, and it is likely he will finally make his big move this summer. Before then, he should be in contention for a place in Deschamps World Cup squad.
His maturity and leadership, despite his young age, would be a perfect addition to the squad. Alongside the influence of Paul Pogba, Gonalons would be a fantastic leader among the younger members of the squad.
Morgan Schneiderlin: Southampton FC
Nearly four years have passed since Schneiderlin pulled on the famous blue jersey at any international level. That was in 2010 when France were qualifying for the 2011 Under-21 European Championships.
Since then the Southampton midfielder has been influential as the Saints have climbed up the English pyramid from League One to the Premier League. Schneiderlin has adapted and developed at every level, and now in the top division he has proved to be one of the best defensive midfielders in England.
For the last two seasons he has constantly averaged at the top of the “tackles per game” stat according to OPTA. Criminally for the Southampton fans, he has yet to register on Didier Deschamps’s international radar.
It may be a position in which France is spoiled for choice, but it seems ridiculous that a player of Schneiderlin’s quality has yet to be called up for the senior side. Perhaps he will be able to grab a place in Deschamps’s 30-man squad before the World Cup, and once he is able to show the French staff what he can do, he could make a claim for a shock last-gasp place in France’s 23-man squad.