5 France Players Whose Stock Increased at 2014 World Cup
Prior to this summer’s FIFA World Cup, little was expected of a France team that scraped past Ukraine 3-2 on aggregate in the play-offs after a heroic 3-0 second leg victory in Paris. Those low expectations enabled Didier Deschamps’ men and the French supporters to approach their Brazilian sojourn with optimism and perform without pressure.
The result of that for Les Bleus was a promising campaign that saw a number of players increase in value to Deschamps and stake an early claim for inclusion in the 45-year-old’s plans for the 2016 UEFA European Championship on home soil.
Few members of the French squad really saw their value plummet, with only Remy Cabella and Eliaquim Mangala—of the outfield players—not getting onto the pitch at all in Brazil.
Here are five France players who saw their stock rise considerably at the World Cup.
5. Moussa Sissoko
When Deschamps announced his 23-man squad, many were surprised by the inclusion of Moussa Sissoko. They should not have been, because the Newcastle United man has been a regular in the former World Cup and European championship-winning captain’s squads since he took over in 2012.
Few expected Sissoko to play a key role in Brazil ahead of the tournament, but the 24-year-old excelled after replacing Paul Pogba in the starting XI for the second Group E fixture against Switzerland. France crushed the Swiss 5-2 and Sissoko scored Les Bleus’ fifth—his first-ever international goal—and demonstrated that he is more than just a utility man.
The versatile midfielder continued in the starting XI for the goalless draw with Ecuador in the following match, but he was dropped to the bench against Nigeria and Germany after Pogba sufficiently impressed to reclaim his place in midfield. His energy and physical strength arguably should have been utilised against the Germans with France lacking bite in the second half in Rio de Janeiro.
4. Raphael Varane
This summer’s World Cup has really seen Raphael Varane come of age and the Real Madrid man is now considered a key player for France. Despite being just 21 years old, Varane played in every game and was one of only four members of Deschamps’ squad that started every match in Brazil.
Although he was expected to feature heavily before the tournament, few could have predicted that his partnership with Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho would only ship one goal between them all tournament—to Germany in their final game. Varane was on the pitch when Switzerland scored twice in the second Group E encounter, but Laurent Koscielny had replaced the injured Sakho by that point.
3. Antoine Griezmann
Coming into the World Cup, Antoine Griezmann was the player that everybody was talking about for France. The Real Sociedad man had set pulses racing with four goals in just three warm-up matches and started the opening Group E clash against Honduras.
The 23-year-old was dropped for the Switzerland game, but reinstated against Ecuador. That pattern then repeated itself in the latter stages, starting the Nigeria clash—which he ultimately influenced as a second half substitute—on the bench before being reinserted into the team for the quarterfinal against Germany.
Griezmann subbed in, he is the 4th Real Sociedad forward to play in the KO rd of the World Cup, after Aldridge, Craioveanu and Nihat.— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) June 30, 2014
Griezmann performed well for a player with such limited international experience and his future with Les Bleus is certainly bright. The images of him in tears following the French defeat to the Germans are something that the supporters view as refreshing because of the youngster’s passion for his country’s jersey.
In time, Griezmann should go on to become the star of this France side.
2. Mamadou Sakho
Prior to the World Cup, Deschamps made it clear that Mamadou Sakho is one of his key players and made him vice-captain of the team. In Brazil, the Liverpool man was played at every opportunity—only missing the clash against Nigeria because of injury—showing his coach’s faith in him.
While that faith and loyalty from Deschamps is admirable—with Sakho repaying him with a number of solid performances—it also cost France one of their most important players later in the tournament.
Deschamps played Sakho against Ecuador, aggravating the injury that the 24-year-old had sustained in the previous game against Switzerland, when the former Paris Saint-Germain star should have been rested. That injury did not go away before the end of the tournament and it became obvious pretty quickly against Germany that Sakho was not fully fit.
This World Cup has demonstrated how important Sakho is to Deschamps' plans and—aside from the Germany game—he performed well. The Liverpool player will be a key part of this French side for years to come based on this summer’s evidence.
1. Mathieu Valbuena
The France player who did the most to enhance his reputation at the World Cup was Mathieu Valbuena. Many were surprised to see the Olympique de Marseille man figuring from the start for Les Bleus, particularly after a disappointing domestic campaign in Ligue 1.
However, those questioning his inclusion obviously do not watch the French in action that often.
12 - Mathieu Valbuena has delivered more assists than any other player for #FRA under Didier Deschamps. Creator.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) July 4, 2014
Valbuena has been a key player for Deschamps for some time now and the 29-year-old is crucial to France, despite his inconsistent club form. When he pulls on the jersey of the national team, he is a player transformed and “Le Petit Velo” (his nickname is the little bicycle) is central to everything that the team creates.
The 29-year-old scored once and provided two assists in four appearances in Brazil and should finally secure a deserved move away from Marseille on the back of his performances in South America. Everybody inside of France knew of his ability before the tournament, now, everybody outside of his home country is also aware of it.