Ranking France's World Cup Squad Player-by-Player

Andrew GibneyFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2014

Ranking France's World Cup Squad Player-by-Player

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    Francois Mori/Associated Press

    When Didier Deschamps announced the 30 names in his preliminary World Cup squad, he was quick to point out that this may not be the best group of individually talented players, but it was the best squad that he could have picked, as reported by Jack Pitt-Brooks in the Independent.

    This was crucial in describing the importance of his decision. Players were not just picked on ability on the field, they were also picked because of their personality, their behavior and their experience on and off the pitch.

    That is very important when ranking the 23-man France squad in order of importance—it is not just what they can do with the ball at their feet, but how they behave within the group and how they react around the squad.

    Here is the 23-man France squad ranked in order of importance to Didier Deschamps this summer.

23: Eliaquim Mangala

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    Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press

    Despite the excitement surrounding the ability of Eliaquim Mangala, he goes into this World Cup as France’s fourth-choice centre-back, and it is very likely that he will play a very small part—if any—at this summer’s World Cup.

    There are still doubts over the fitness of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, and this could give Mangala a slim chance, but his importance to the squad’s success doesn’t depend on the FC Porto defender.

    He played a small cameo role against Paraguay last Sunday, and he looked a little out of sorts. Deschamps will be hoping there aren’t a host of defensive injuries going into the tournament.

22: Morgan Schneiderlin

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    When the news broke that Clement Grenier had broke down in training, the rumours began to circulate that Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin would take his place.

    Just two days before France's last World Cup warm-up game, the former Strasbourg player, who has never been capped for France, will finally get his chance to line-up for his country.

    Schneiderlin has been a revelation ever since he joined the Saints when they were down in League One. Now in the Premier League, the player's rise has been similar to that of his team. Now, finally, he has won the recognition of Didier Deschamps and the senior national team.

    It is unclear how much game-time the 24-year-old will get in Brazil, but it is a step in the right direction.

21: Rio Mavuba

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    The captain of Lille OSC will have a fairly large role within the French camp, but his on-field presence will be limited during the majority of the matches.

    Mavuba is a very handy player to have when you are holding on to a lead with around 20-30 minutes to go. He protects the back four, retains the ball and reads the game very well. He could become very useful in the later rounds.

20: Lucas Digne

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    Armando Franca/Associated Press

    Lucas Digne is undoubtedly the future of the France defence and the heir to Patrice Evra’s left-back position. However, it is unclear how much time he will see this summer. Unless injured or suffering from fatigue, Evra will play as much as physically possible.

    The Paris Saint-Germain defender showed against Norway just how effective he can be on the left-flank, there would be few doubts from Deschamps that Digne could deputise in Brazil.

19: Stephane Ruffier

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    When Stephane Ruffier was called up to the France squad after the injury to Steve Mandanda, he was instantly upgraded to the spot of No. 2 goalkeeper. This makes him fairly important to Deschamps this summer—any injury to Lloris and the Saint-Etienne ‘keeper will have to pull on his gloves for his country.

    Ruffier hasn’t been as impressive as in previous seasons, but with Les Verts finishing fourth and the former Monaco man keeping 16 clean sheets, there is little doubt he is a worthy replacement.

18: Moussa Sissoko

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    Sergei Chuzavkov/Associated Press

    Moussa Sissoko is an underrated member of the France squad, it is clear he is far from pushing into the starting XI, but he offers Deschamps options off the bench that not many other players can.

    Against Spain in the qualifiers, he came on for the last half hour in Madrid and gave France a more physical and energetic presence. He revitalised the midfield and helped France grab what turned out to be a vital point.

    Deschamps will call upon Sissoko if France are losing the physical battle, knowing he can add an extra dimension of pace and drive.

17: Mickael Landreau

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    Michel Spingler/Associated Press

    The importance of Mickael Landreau in the France squad is not what he can do on the pitch; it’s the experience he brings off it. He is now the all-time appearance leader in Ligue 1, and there is little that he hasn’t done in the game of football.

    Landreau has already retired from club football at the end of the season, and he will be hoping that his last ever game will be as a member of the France squad in the World Cup final.

    The former Lille goalkeeper will provide guidance and a calm head around a squad of excellent young players. Something that is invaluable to Deschamps this summer.

16: Remy Cabella

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Montpellier winger Remy Cabella has been called into the squad to replace Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery after the player and medical staff declared that training had re-aggravated his back injury/

    Cabella is the only reserve to play any minutes of the two pre-World Cup friendlies, and he is the natural choice to step into the squad.

    He finished the season with 14 goals and five assists in what was a poor season for Montpellier. He has that little spark of magic that can create chances from nothing and is the ideal player to come on when teams are tired.

15: Loic Remy

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    Scott Heppell/Associated Press

    After a fantastic season for Newcastle United, Loic Remy gets on the plane to Brazil after an excellent performance against Paraguay on Sunday. He played on the left wing and linked up very well with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, almost getting on the scoresheet with a wonderful acrobatic volley.

    His place in the side will be to play as the alternative to Giroud and Karim Benzema, but he is very capable of playing on either wing or even as part of a strike partnership. The versatility that he possesses will be key for Deschamps.

14: Bacary Sagna

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Despite an excellent season for Arsenal, Bacary Sagna has lost his place in the France team, and it doesn’t look like he is going to win it back any time soon.

    Mathieu Debuchy is just ahead of the former Auxerre man, and even a great display against Paraguay won’t be enough for Sagna to steal the spot back.

    However, what Sagna does give Deschamps is an excellent and experienced player to come off the bench in times of trouble. He can also play at centre-back and can be a more solid option to Debuchy defensively. He will certainly have a role to play for Les Bleus.

13: Raphael Varane

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    This was meant to be a chance for Raphael Varane to shine on the grandest stage of them all, but a minor injury and playing in the Champions League final with Real Madrid has stopped the big defender from taking part in any of the pre-World Cup friendlies.

    He has lost his chance of winning a start in the team, and possibly his chance of making a real impact at this World Cup. Varane will have to wait for his opportunity, and there is little doubt that he will perform flawlessly once he gets the nod.

    Varane is an excellent option in defence for Deschamps—he is composed on the ball, strong in the air and performs the role almost perfectly. There will be no panicking if the young defender has to play a part this summer.

12: Mathieu Debuchy

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    The Newcastle United right-back is in a battle with Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna for a place in the France defence, and right now Mathieu Debuchy is in pole position. An excellent performance against Ukraine and then Norway has helped the former Lille fulll-back edge past the veteran defender.

    For Deschamps, Debuchy adds that little bit more attacking impetus down the right, without relinquishing any protection down the flanks. As the favourite to win Group E, France will need to attack in numbers, something that Debuchy excels at, and he will get a chance to spread his wings during the opening fixtures.

11: Olivier Giroud

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Olivier Giroud is a different style of forward to Karim Benzema, but he has shown in the two most recent friendlies that he can be just as integral to the France attack. His double against Norway was just part of his excellent performance, he held the ball up beautifully and brought his team-mates into play, it was everything you could ask from a target man.

    Against Paraguay, he tried and  tried but just couldn’t find the back of the net. The ball just never fell properly in the right positions.

    Deschamps will rely on Giroud to change the attack when it isn’t working; he has shown he is far more than one-dimensional and will be a real asset during this World Cup.

10: Laurent Koscielny

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    Sang Tan/Associated Press

    The Arsenal centre-back looks set to start against Honduras on June 15, and he should definitely give Didier Deschamps a big hug before kick-off. When he was sent off against Ukraine, Laurent Koscielny could have kissed his World Cup dreams goodbye, but his team-mates saved his blushes, and now he has the chance to redeem himself.

    Beside the power and strength of Mamadou Sakho, Koscielny provides more of a studied approach to defending. He has the pace to deal with the quicker strikers and the strength to go up against the bigger opponents. He is the perfect partner for Sakho, and Deschamps will give him that chance at redemption in Brazil.

9: Yohan Cabaye

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    Although he was capped when he was part of Lille’s title-winning side in 2011, it wasn’t until he moved to Newcastle United that Yohan Cabaye gained international respect and pushed his way into the starting line-up.

    Now, beside Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi he is the brains and architect of France’s midfield trio, and he is extremely versatile within that trident.

    Cabaye can be the deep-lying playmaker, tracking players and breaking up the play, but then he can burst forward and create chances for France. His range of passing makes him a threat from anywhere on the pitch and a key part of Deschamps' tactics this summer.

8: Patrice Evra

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Patrice Evra is a very controversial figure in the France squad. Still not fully forgiven for his involvement in the strike in Knysna, he goes to Brazil looking for redemption and the chance to end his international career on a high.

    His experience in the France defence will be invaluable, and he is one of Deschamps' leaders on the pitch. The fans may not be convinced, but to the players, Evra is one of their generals. Expect nothing but 100 percent from the Manchester United left-back this summer.

7: Blaise Matuidi

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    This former Saint-Etienne midfielder has made himself as important for his country as he is for his club. At PSG he is part of a wonderful midfield trio, and now for Les Bleus he is helping replicate that success at international level.

    Blaise Matuidi is the engine room of the France midfield, but he is more than that. He has vision and skill to break forward and create, and he has an unmatched desire to make every ball his own.

    Able to run for the full 90 minutes, it would be a surprise if the South American climate changed that. Matuidi is a monster, and he deserves respect.

6: Antoine Griezmann

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    Twelve months ago, Antoine Griezmann was an under-21 player suspended from international football after missing a curfew while on duty. Now there are calls for Deschamps to pick the Real Sociedad forward to start against Honduras.

    It has been a dramatic rise for the 23-year-old, but his performances against Netherlands, Norway and Paraguay have shown that he can handle the pressure in the senior side, and he has blossomed in just a short time.

    Griezmann’s form for France has stopped a panic spreading over the loss of Franck Ribery, which in itself is a huge compliment to the player. He could be a breakout star this summer in Brazil.

5: Mamadou Sakho

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    It is clear that Mamadou Sakho is not France’s best out-and-out defender, but no one can match his heart and desire when he pulls on the famous blue jersey.

    When France had their backs against the wall, Sakho stood up, and his huge presence inspired Deschamps’ side to the 3-0 victory over Ukraine. The Liverpool defender scored twice and was a huge reason behind the success.

    It is going to take a big person to try to wrestle that starting spot from the former Paris Saint-Germain defender. He epitomises everything that the French public want their players to stand for, and he shows it every time he is on the pitch.

4: Karim Benzema

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    Paul White/Associated Press

    If Karim Benzema can provide goals for France this summer, it will be a huge relief for everyone involved. He is yet to score a goal at an international tournament, although this is his first World Cup. It would be a vital time to find his scoring boots for Les Bleus.

    His form in Spain for Real Madrid has been superb, and there were signs against Netherlands that he has finally got the French monkey off his back.

    Goals from Benzema would be invaluable this summer. Olivier Giroud is a great second option, but the possible link-up play between Mathieu Valbuena, Franck Ribery and Benzema would be unstoppable if it gets going.

    Deschamps will have to hope it all clicks come the tournament.

3: Paul Pogba

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    Claude Paris/Associated Press

    The Juventus superstar has the ability to become a French hero this summer. He has all the tools at his disposal, he just needs to pull it all together at the same time. If he can do this, he will transform himself into the ultimate midfield weapon.

    His tall, rangy stride gives him the ability to move around the park with grace and purpose. He also has the ability to glide past opponents effortlessly, showing similar skills to that of a winger. It makes Pogba a dangerous threat all over the pitch.

    For France to be successful in Brazil, Pogba will be a significant part of any potential success. There is little doubt his huge shoulders can handle all the responsibility.

2: Mathieu Valbuena

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    Michel Euler/Associated Press

    Mathieu Valbuena’s three assists in the friendly against Norway showed exactly how important he is to the way Didier Deschamps’ France team will play this summer.

    The Marseille playmaker is behind everything that Les Bleus do well, and he is always at the heart of the play. What he does better than most is find the little pockets of space that let him become the focus of the attack.

    He has a wonderful right foot and will provide the ammunition that the French strikers will thrive on this summer.

1: Hugo Lloris

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    Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    If anything happened to France's No. 1 goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, it would be an absolute disaster for Didier Deschamps. He is easily the best French player in his position and undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers at the tournament.

    So often he is France’s savoir, and if they want to go far in this competition they will need the Tottenham Hotspur stopper in top form. With the injury to Steve Mandanda, Lloris is such an important player to this squad and one that France can’t afford to lose.

    Not many teams are able to replace world-class players, but without Lloris, France’s chances of going far this summer would drop drastically. He is not only France's captain and leader, but he is indispensable to this team.