5 Surprise Omissions from the France World Cup Squad
On Tuesday night, French national team boss Didier Deschamps went on French TV to announce his squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Everyone knew he was going to pick 30 names for the upcoming friendlies, but it was unclear if he would leave it open or pick a 23-man squad with reserves.
In the hours building up to the announcement, the list of 30 names could have featured around 50 different players depending on what rumours you believe. Deschamps had previously said that there would be no real surprises, but the speculation continued right up until the former Marseille boss revealed his list.
Deschamps had decided to name a 23-man squad with seven names on the reserve list. There were no real names from left-field. The inclusion of Saint-Etienne’s Loic Perrin and Benoit Tremoulinas being the most obscure choices, but by no means the surprise that people had been predicting.
The day before, Belgian boss Marc Wilmots had included uncapped Lille striker, Divock Origi, in his 23-man squad, there were no shocks to that level, with most of the stories surrounding Deschamps' squad concentrating who he left out rather than who he included.
Some of the players on the reserve list would have been hoping to have been named in the 23 and there were some players that didn’t receive a mention at all.
Here are the five most shocking omissions from Deschamps’s 23-man World Cup squad.
All statistics taken from LFP.fr and WhoScored.com
Remy Cabella: Montpellier HSC
This has been an excellent season for Montpellier playmaker Remy Cabella, mostly on a professional level, as his team has struggled for the majority of the Ligue 1 season. La Paillade have been the draw specialists this campaign, with 18 of their 37 games ending with the points shared. You have to wonder where Montpellier would have finished without the exploits of Cabella.
The 24-year-old has scored 14 league goals—his best-ever return—and added five assists. Last season he only managed seven goals and six assists, and it is clear to see that he has stepped up his performances even though the weight of expectation has been resting firmly on his shoulders.
Cabella would have been the perfect No.10-type playmaker in Didier Deschamps’ squad. Clement Grenier of Lyon has been picked in the 23-man squad, but Cabella offers a more direct attacking style and an unpredictability to create chances from nowhere. His versatility would have also added a threat from the wide areas, and it is that adaptability that is somewhat lacking in the current squad.
Alexandre Lacazette: Olympique Lyonnais
Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette will be wondering what else he could have possibly done to have won a place in Didier Deschamps’s 23-man squad. Previously the most league goals the forward had managed in a season had been five, this season he has nearly trebled his productivity, but it still wasn’t enough.
Without the excellent play of Lacazette, Lyon would not still be challenging for a place in next season’s Europa League. His return of 15 goals domestically, plus another five in the various cups, makes him one of the top strikers in France this season and usually that would be enough to secure a place in the national team.
Before announcing the squad, Deschamps said he would have one eye on the European Championships in two years' time, with that in mind it would have been ideal to take the 22-year-old to Brazil. If he continues to develop after this great season in Ligue 1, he could easily be France’s star striker when they host the 2016 tournament.
Lacazette’s main competition is Newcastle United striker Loic Remy. The man on loan from Queen’s Park Rangers has scored 14 goals this season, but spates of injuries have cast a doubt over the former Marseille man. When looking at the long-term future of the national team, Lacazette is the more natural choice.
Gael Clichy: Manchester City
Times are a changing in the French defence and the old-guard is on its way out. Patrice Evra is rumoured to be ending his international career after the World Cup in Brazil and there is a whole batch of young players currently breaking through into the defensive line. In fact the side that starts the opening game of the 2016 European Championships could only contain one member of the defence that starts against Honduras next month.
Many would have thought that Clichy would be the natural successor to Evra once he bows out, but for the former Arsenal man, the last six months have seen him lose his place as Evra’s understudy, and it is unlikely he will be able to win it back.
With Evra playing on till he is 33 years old, at just 28, Clichy would have hoped to have had a future with Les Blues, but with the emergence of Lucas Digne, Layvin Kurzawa and the return to Ligue 1 of Benoit Tremoulinas, it seems Clichy’s time is all but up.
After winning the Premier League title on Sunday with Manchester City, it would have been a shock to the left-back to find his name completely left off of the 30-man list. Tremoulinas was named as the reserve defender, and with Kurzawa breaking through at under-21 level, it seems it will be a long way back for Clichy.
Maxime Gonalons: Olympique Lyonnais
If Alexandre Lacazette has been crucial to Lyon’s resurgence and current position of fifth in Ligue 1, the play of captain Maxime Gonalons has been vital. He is the beating heart of Les Gones, he is the boyhood fan turned top player, and he exudes everything the club is about. Quite frankly he should be on the plane to Brazil and it is a mistake for Deschamps to overlook the 25-year-old.
No one in the Lyon team that has made over 25 starts has a better performance score than Gonalons according to WhoScored.com. He has made nearly double the amount of successful tackles than anyone else in the team and his reading of the game continues to impress. It is no wonder Serie A side Napoli are heavily linked with a summer move for the Lyon captain, per Football-Italia, and he will be a huge loss to Lyon when he inevitably leaves.
Deschamps decided to choose Lille captain, Rio Mavuba, over Gonalons, and it’s understandable that Mavuba will provide an extra level of experience to the squad, but Gonalons has played 143 games in Ligue 1, so he is not a newcomer.
He is a leader of men, and he is used to guiding young players through the tough times at Lyon. He would have been perfect for Deschamps' squad. If worse comes to worse he can always cover at centre-back too.
Samir Nasri: Manchester City
Probably the most shocking thing about Samir Nasri’s omission from the France World Cup squad was the reaction from the British press. A lot of sources couldn’t quite understand why the Manchester City midfielder had been left out after such a sterling season in the Premier League.
Just looking at France's World Cup squad. Some interesting picks. Can't imagine Deschamps watched much Premier League football this season.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) May 14, 2014
However, over in France, the reaction was minimal, and it was through the openness of Didier Deschamps in the reason for his decision to exclude Nasri.
It was nothing to do with ability, it no nothing to do with form: It was all about his attitude and potential to disrupt the harmony and good feeling around the squad at the moment.
During the announcement on French TV channel TF1, Deschamps made his reasons clear.
"Samir is an important player for Manchester City but he has not performed that well with France," Deschamps said. "He is a starter at City, which is not the case with France and he has made clear that he is not happy when he is not [a starter], and I can tell you it can be felt in the squad. I built the best squad, I did not pick the 23 best French players."
After scoring seven goals and adding seven assists, it may be a shock to fans of the Premier League that Nasri was not included in the 30-man French squad, but for followers of French football the decision has been met with understanding and respect. It is important this summer that the only stories surrounding this France side come from the performances on the pitch.