Updates from Friday, June 6
Injuries to a couple of squad members have forced Didier Deschamps to make changes to his roster, according to Eurosport:
BREAKING: More on that France injury news - Franck Ribery and Clement Grenier ruled out, replaced by Remy Cabella and Morgan Schneiderlin.— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) June 6, 2014
Manager Didier Deschamps may have made some controversial decisions when putting together his provisional squad, but there's no questioning the talent he will still have at his disposal in France.
One of the world's top keepers? Check. One of the most talented young midfielders? Check. A Ballon d’Or finalist on the wing? Check. A formidable striker with tantalizing technical prowess to pair with a deft scoring touch? Check.
Deschamps named his final 23-man squad on Monday, and the big news was the inclusion of fitness doubt Franck Ribery. The only minor change saw St Etienne's Stephane Ruffier replace Steve Mandanda as a goalkeeping option, as reported by Reuters (via Eurosport).
France have the talent to make a deep run in this year's World Cup. Let's take a look at the final roster and project how the starting line-up will look.
Here's France's full 23-man squad:
|GK||Hugo Lloris||Tottenham Hotspur|
|DEF||Lucas Digne||Paris Saint-Germain|
|DEF||Patrice Evra||Manchester United|
|DEF||Raphael Varane||Real Madrid|
|MID||Yohan Cabaye||Paris Saint-Germain|
|MID||Blaise Matuidi||Paris Saint-Germain|
|FW||Karim Benzema||Real Madrid|
|FW||Antoine Griezmann||Real Sociedad|
And here are the projections for the starting line-up:
The French national team has a hard time avoiding controversy right around the World Cup. Four years ago, Patrice Evra and company refused to train after Nicolas Anelka allegedly said some pretty nasty things to manager Raymond Domenech during half-time of the team's match against Mexico, per French newspaper l'Equipe (via the Telegraph).
And this year, Deschamps is suing Samir Nasri's girlfriend after the latter took to Twitter to say some pretty nasty things to the manager after Nasri was left off the squad.
Deschamps had the following to say about leaving Nasri behind, per ESPN:
We're talking about a player of great quality. But Samir has had some performances in the French national team that aren't at the same level of those with City. He's an important player at City, which is not the case in the national team.
He has said himself that he's not happy when he's a substitute. You can see that, and feel that within the squad. That's the three reasons why I didn't pick him.
Never a dull moment for France, eh?
While there is that excitement to consider, there shouldn't be too much controversy as to whom will start in Brazil.
Hugo Lloris is a mainstay at keeper. Laurent Koscielny is a rock in central defence, while Patrice Evra is a Deschamps favourite.
Franck Ribery is one of the best players in the world, hands down, and his only concern is a lower-back issue. Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, meanwhile, are no-brainers in the midfield. And of course, Real Madrid's Karim Benzema will get the nod at striker.
For Benzema, keeping the good times rolling on the international stage will be vital, as Andy Scott of AFP News (via Yahoo) writes:
Benzema endured a shocking international goal drought of 1,222 minutes before coming good just in the nick of time, finally getting back among the goals in a 6-0 friendly win against Australia in October before scoring in the crucial 3-0 play-off second-leg victory over Ukraine in November that took France to the World Cup.
The former Lyon player has now scored four times in his last five international appearances, boosting his overall record for his country to 19 goals from 65 caps.
After those selections, however, it gets a bit trickier. Right-back offers Deschamps an interesting choice—does he opt for the more defensively sound and experienced Bacary Sagna or a player such as Mathieu Debuchy, who is more proficient at joining in the attack?
Given Deschamps' managerial style and desire to see his full-backs get forward, Debuchy seems the logical choice. Keep in mind that Debuchy was the top-rated right-back in the Premier League this season according to WhoScored.com, earning a 7.42 average match rating.
That trumped Sagna's 7.2 mark, a solid score in its own right. It's a tough choice, but Deschamps can't really go wrong with either player.
The other question in defence is who will partner with Koscielny. Young Raphael Varane gets the nod here, as his talent is unquestionable. But there is a strong case to be made for Mamadou Sakho, who played well for Liverpool when called upon. With Porto's Eliaquim Mangala also available, Deschamps again has a treasure trove to choose from.
The midfield is another interesting conundrum, in particular which player will join Pogba and Matuidi.
Yohan Cabaye is experienced and versatile, fitting into multiple formations and positions. Rio Mavuba is a pure defensive midfielder and offers great support to France's centre-backs when the full-backs move up the pitch. Clement Grenier is an exciting attacking midfielder and is versatile enough to play on the wings. Mathieu Valbuena will surely start somewhere, but will it be centrally or on the right?
These are the big questions to be answered, and likely it will be a fluid situation depending on whether Deschamps prefers a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.
No matter what decisions the manager makes, France have both a talented roster and a pretty easy group, with Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador to contest. That's a group France should win, but as always, you never quite know what you will get with the French.