Picking France's 2018 World Cup Squad After End of Qualification Campaign

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2017

France celebrate reaching the World Cup Finals.
France celebrate reaching the World Cup Finals.Michel Euler/Associated Press

France have made heavier weather than many would have imagined of their World Cup qualification campaign, needing to win their last game in order to be sure of booking their passage to Russia 2018.

Fortunately, that game was against Belarus at home, and even Didier Deschamps' apparent attempt to suck all the joy out of what might just be the most talented squad in world football was not enough to stop Les Bleus from making it. The 2-1 scoreline was not exactly the convincing victory fans would have hoped for, but it does mean the job is done.

So who will Deschamps take to the tournament? There is a lot of football to be played between now and then. Form and fitness will play their part, but this would seem a reasonable guess at France's eventual 23.

             

Goalkeepers

Hugo Lloris

Lloris leads the celebrations.
Lloris leads the celebrations.Christophe Ena/Associated Press

The obvious first-choice, the Tottenham Hotspur stopper is one of the Premier League's best and an asset to his national team. With 93 caps, he is hugely experienced already, and at 30-years old, he has plenty of time left at the top. The squad's captain will retain his place if available.

         

Alphonse Areola

Paris Saint-Germain's 24-year old 'keeper will likely be the man who eventually replaces Lloris. He is first-choice at France's one superclub and does not look out of place in the role. If France's current first pick were not one of the world's best, there would likely be calls for Areola to step up already. As it is, he will have to bide his time, but there is no mistaking the fact that he is the next in line.

       

Steve Mandanda

Back playing football at Marseille, Mandanda is a Deschamps favourite. The old stager will fill the mandatory third 'keeper spot.

Missing out: Benoit Costil

       

Full-backs

A host of current and former Monaco players are likely to feature for France.
A host of current and former Monaco players are likely to feature for France.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Benjamin Mendy

Mendy is currently facing a long lay-off with a serious injury. Assuming he gets back to full fitness before the end of the season, Manchester City's loss could be France's game. Rehab is, of course, a draining process, but he will have fewer miles in his legs than he would have done had he played the whole season. A fresh and firing Mendy would be a dangerous weapon for Deschamps.

       

Djibril Sidibe

Sidibe, Mendy's former Monaco team-mate, has stayed in the principality, but the two will probably reunite in Deschamps' first XI if they are both available.

Sidibe has been an ever-present at right-back for club and country this season and will be in the squad if fit.

       

Christophe Jallet

The solid, dependable Jallet is one of the more surprising regulars in France's squad, but it is clear Deschamps values the 33-year old's presence.

The Nice man will probably not be first-choice, but he will be one of the squad's older heads, adding a bit of experience the generally youthful side can presumably benefit from.

          

Lucas Digne

This last position is a little tricky. With Layvin Kurzawa having been the target of an attempted blackmail over videos in which he was critical of Deschamps, there is a chance the PSG man could miss out. 

If he does, Barcelona's Digne will be the beneficiary. Digne started against both Bulgaria and Belarus in this past international break. After the Bulgaria game, Sport's Albert Gracia wrote, "Digne produced a fine performance and showed that he is a player who can rival Alba for the left-back spot in the Barca team."

Gracia added that Digne, "was praised in France and it was suggested that he could be the man to take the left-back slot for the time being, ahead of Kurzawa, who has not convinced." 

He gets the spot for now.

     

Missing out: Layvin Kurzawa, Jordan Amavi

        

Centre-backs

Spain's top three are all represented here...
Spain's top three are all represented here...FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Laurent Koscielny

The Arsenal man is a stalwart of Deschamps' team and will make the squad, and he'll likely be in the starting XI.

       

Samuel Umtiti

Umtiti has been a regular for Barcelona this season and will make the plane to Russia unless there is a pressing reason he cannot. He's a fine option for Deschamps.

        

Raphael Varane

Just as the Spain national team's centre-back pairing of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos have to put El Clasico rivalries aside in the national interest, so too do Umiti and Real Madrid's Varane. Which two of the above three make up the first-choice pairing is an interesting debate, but there is no debate about whether they will make the squad.

       

Presnel Kimpembe

PSG's Kimpembe has been part of Deschamps' regular squad in qualifying, and the 22-year old would be the progressive choice as fourth centre-back, given he has a chance to develop into a national team regular.


Adil Rami

This position is probably up for grabs, with Kurt Zouma and Adil Rami fighting it out. Rami was used in Euro 2016 and was in the squad for the latest round of qualifiers so it seems reasonable to assume he will be the man for now. 

Missing Out: Aymeric Laporte, Kurt Zouma

        

Midfield

The main man in France's midfield.
The main man in France's midfield.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Paul Pogba

Huge attention will be on Pogba at the World Cup, because huge attention is always on Pogba. If he returns to Manchester United action from injury in the same form as he was in before he got hurt, Deschamps will simply have to look to build his team around arguably his most famous player.

        

N'Golo Kante

The Chelsea man suffered an injury during this international break, but when Russia rolls around, Deschamps will have the option to play Kante in the role in which Jose Mourinho deploys Nemanja Matic for United. That will allow Pogba free rein to perform.

        

Adrien Rabiot

PSG's most high-profile homegrown talent, Rabiot's exclusion from the game against Bulgaria in Pogba's absence was evidence of just how many fine midfielders France have. Their depth of quality in this area is impressive—and amazingly it might not even be the position that provides Deschamps with his biggest selection headaches.

But Rabiot should make the squad. A player as talented as he would be an automatic starter for most nations at the World Cup, let alone a squad player.

         

Corentin Tolisso

Having made the move to Bayern Munich and established himself in the first team at the German giants, Tolisso has been a regular in recent qualification games.

It is important to note here that there are all kinds of permutations in terms of squad balance, and it is not impossible that any of the following players—especially the first three—will make the squad at the expense of one of the above, or one of the more attacking players listed below.

       

Missing out: Blaise Matuidi, Moussa Sissoko, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Yohan Cabaye, Morgan Schneiderlin

        

Attacking midfielders

Antoine Griezmann

France's No. 7 will surely travel if available.
France's No. 7 will surely travel if available.Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Griezmann is in pretty poor form at the moment—though his goal against Belarus will help his confidence—but he will surely make next summer's squad, barring injury or an absolutely disastrous season.

Deschamps has an absolutely ridiculous level of talent to pick from in the forward positions in his squad, though, so perhaps even the poster-child of their Euro 2016 campaign will be vulnerable. That seems unlikely, though, given both Griezmann's abundance of talent and Deschamps' tendency to stick with his favourites.

       

Dimitri Payet

Payet would, on paper, appear to be the player on this list most vulnerable to being replaced by one of the players on the "missing out" list, but Deschamps has kept immense faith with the Marseille man.

And, in truth, he does offer something different to many of the options here, with his ability to pick a pass and control the attacking tempo of a move, combined with his set-piece delivery, providing a more traditional No. 10 style presence in among so many fast, technically gifted forwards.

       

Thomas Lemar

Monaco's Lemar seems to have the nod at the moment, and there is little reason that should change in the months ahead. He offers a degree of natural width that could be helpful in stretching defences, and is, of course, a high-quality player.

        

Ousmane Dembele

With the start to his Barcelona career interrupted by injury, Dembele is nonetheless set to be back well before the World Cup.

His move to Barca should probably come with a recategorisation as an out-and-out forward, as he will play as part of their 4-3-3 rather than as part of three behind a striker as was the case at Borussia Dortmund. Either way, his ability and tactical flexibility make him a strong contender for a place in the squad.

           

Missing out: Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial, Nabil Fekir, Florian Thauvin

        

Forwards

Deschamps is a big fan of Giroud.
Deschamps is a big fan of Giroud.Michael Sohn/Associated Press

Kylian Mbappe

PSG's high-profile loanee from Monaco has continued his remarkable rise. One of the best young talents anywhere in world football, Mbappe will surely be part of his manager's plans.

        

Olivier Giroud

It's Deschamps and France. Giroud is going to the World Cup. While it might seem a slightly odd choice to leave such talented forward players behind for the sake of Giroud's presence, he does offer something unique and has been bordering on talismanic for Les Bleus.

       

Alexandre Lacazette

The other Arsenal frontman will likely be in the picture, too—preferred to Giroud against Bulgaria, that decision was reversed against Belarus. It will be interesting to see how both players' form over the rest of the season influences Deschamps' thinking in terms of his first XI.

         

Missing out: Kevin Gameiro, Andre-Pierre Gignac

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