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2022 World Cup: Country profile – France

Factfile on France, who are in World Cup Group D:

Best World Cup performance: Winners in 1998 and 2018.

Other honours: European Championship winners in 1984 and 2000; FIFA Confederations Cup winners 2001, 2003; UEFA Nations League winners 2021.

FIFA ranking: 4.

Main clubs: Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille, Lyon, Monaco, Rennes, Nice, Lille.

How they qualified: Finished first in European qualifying Group D.

Coach: Didier Deschamps, 54, is one of only three men to have won the World Cup as a player and a coach. He followed in the footsteps of Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer as he captained France to victory as hosts in 1998 and then coached them to glory four years ago in Russia. As a midfielder, Deschamps also won Euro 2000 with his country and was a Champions League winner with Marseille and Juventus. He was just 32 when he retired from playing and as a coach he took Monaco to a Champions League final and won Ligue 1 with Marseille before succeeding Laurent Blanc as France boss in 2012. Deschamps also took Les Bleus to the last eight in Brazil in 2014 and the Euro 2016 final. They had a poor Euro 2020 but bounced back to win last year’s UEFA Nations League. 

Key player: Karim Benzema is enjoying a remarkable twilight to his career. He will turn 35 the day after the World Cup final but he goes to Qatar fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or as recognition for his magnificent performances in captaining Real Madrid to glory in La Liga and the Champions League last season. Benzema was frozen out of the France team for five and a half years — missing the 2018 World Cup win — due to his role in a blackmail scandal involving a sextape and his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena. He was convicted for his role in that affair last year but by then he had returned to the France side, playing at Euro 2020 and in the team that won the UEFA Nations League.

Expectations and key players according to George Boxall, Get French Football News:

Expectations:

“Les Bleus always expect to go deep into a World Cup campaign, even more so when they are current holders of the competition – but off-pitch controversies surrounding the French Football Federation, players’ image rights, and of course the Paul Pogba blackmail saga have dominated a fractious build up to Qatar 2020. A mid-season tournament has posed some more particular challenges for Didier Deschamps on the pitch as the vital midfield pairing of N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba are set to miss out due to injury. It has been characterised as a turning point to usher a new generation of young France players, especially in midfield and defence, into the first team. Despite a sense of trepidation over missing players and extra-sporting matters, once that ball is kicked off against Australia on 22nd November the expectation will be to at least reach the quarter final stage, but without key leaders Les Bleus may not possess the mentality to go on and win the tournament.”

Key players:

“France are still a side filled to the brim with talent: Kylian Mbappé, alongside Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema have the tools to devastate an opponent’s defences. In midfield it could be a key tournament for Real Madrid man Aurélian Tchouaméni as well as a surprise pick for Mattéo Guendouzi or a resurgent Adrien Rabiot. A new name to many will be wing-back Jonathan Clauss, he’ll be an underrated pick to perform at the World Cup.”

Group fixtures

November 22: France v Australia.

November 26: France v Denmark.

November 30: Tunisia v France.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes).

Defenders: Lucas Hernardez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamencano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United).

Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille).

Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach).

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