The France World Cup 2022 squad has been announced – and the holders are without stars names like Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante and now, Karim Benzema too.
The Real Madrid striker – and recent Ballon d'Or winner – will miss out after withdrawing from the France team on the eve of the tournament with a thigh injury.
Highly-rated RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku also withdrew with an injury shortly before the first World Cup fixture, being replaced by Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani.
So what can we expect from Didier Deschamps' side?
The France team that lifted the World Cup in Russia were a paradox. Overly defensive, said the detractors – yet they set a record tally of 11 goals in the knockout phase, including four in the final. Unnecessarily cautious, carped the critics – yet here’s Benjamin Pavard, dashing up from right-back to score FIFA’s Goal of the Tournament in a nonsense 4-3 win over Argentina.
The idea that Les Bleus’ 2018 vintage lacked an identity is wrong – their identity was simply to win. Moulded in the likeness of serial winner Didier Deschamps, their manager, they were a chameleon-like side, adopting the right strategy on a game-by-game basis to progress through the rounds.
Since that glorious day in Moscow, there has been the disappointment of an unexpectedly early Euro 2020 exit, losing to Switzerland on penalties in the last 16, but also a reminder of how good France are at their finest, winning last October’s Nations League Finals. Having trailed Belgium 2-0 at half-time in the semi-final before recovering to win 3-2, they came from behind again to defeat Spain in the Milan showpiece with goals from Kylian Mbappe and the ageless Karim Benzema, brought back in from the international wilderness. Victory sharpened their competitive edge ahead of the real deal in Qatar.
Many key performers from 2018 are still integral members of this side. That is understandable given their pedigree, but there’s also a legitimate concern that several of those regular starters – Raphael Varane, Oliver Giroud, Antoine Griezmann to name but three – are no longer at the elite level required to win back-to-back World Cups. Griezmann, for example, is now used almost exclusively as a supersub by Atletico Madrid. Meanwhile, France’s Nations League title defence turned rapidly into a relegation battle with defeats to Croatia, and Denmark home and away.
Set against such doubts is the emergence of a talented new group – led by William Saliba and Aurelien Tchouameni – who may force their way into Deschamps’ starting XI once the action gets underway. It is the one-time water carrier’s job to get the balance right, while securing results.
To some degree, Qatar 2022 may mark a passing of the baton for France. They will still be among the favourites, though, whoever makes their line-up.
France World Cup 2022 squad: The full team
- GK: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham
- GK: Alphonse Areola, West Ham
- GK: Steve Mandanda, Rennes
- DF: Benjamin Pavard, Bayern Munich
- DF: Jules Kounde, Barcelona
- DF: Raphael Varane, Manchester United
- DF: Theo Hernandez, AC Milan
- DF: Lucas Hernandez, Bayern Munich
- DF: Benoit Badiashile, Monaco
- DF: Ferland Mendy, Real Madrid
- DF: Dayot Upamecano, Bayern Munich
- DF: Ibrahima Konate, Liverpool
- DF: William Saliba, Arsenal
- MF: Eduardo Camavinga, Real Madrid
- MF: Youssouf Fofana, Monaco
- MF: Matteo Guendouzi, Marseille
- MF: Aurelien Tchouameni, Real Madrid
- MF: Adrien Rabiot, Juventus
- MF: Jordan Veretout, Marseille
- FW: Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona
- FW: Olivier Giroud, AC Milan
- FW: Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid
- FW: Kylian Mbappe, PSG
- FW: Randal Kolo Muani, Eintracht Frankfurt
- FW: Kingsley Coman, Bayern Munich
France top scorers
These are France's World Cup 2022 top scorers so far:
3 goals: Kylian Mbappe
2 goals: Olivier Giroud
1 goal: Adrien Rabiot
France yellow cards
Here are France's World Cup yellow cards so far:
1: Jules Kounde
Who is France's manager for the 2022 World Cup?
As an arch-pragmatist and superb man-manager, Didier Deschamps is well-suited to a tournament’s quick-fire challenges. His coolness, adaptability and experience will be key. He is also one of only three men to have won the World Cup as a player and a manager, and after a decade in charge, his desire for further honours remains strong.
Who is France's star player for the 2022 World Cup?
Kylian Mbappe notched four goals at Russia 2018 and became the first teenager since Pele 60 years earlier to score in a World Cup final. At 23, the PSG star is now an even more complete finisher and better all-round footballer, and he’s driven by a desire to put things right after his penalty miss in France’s shock defeat to Switzerland at Euro 2020.
How many players are France allowed to take to the 2022 World Cup?
National managers were allowed to bring 26 players to last summer’s European Championship for the first time at a major tournament, as a special measure brought in due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now it has been announced that 26-player squads will return for the Qatar World Cup, an expansion from the usual 23-man teams.
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