The Nations of the 21st World Cup – France

France National Team

France NT

Les Bleus

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

France

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 7-2-1
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 7th
World Cup 2014 Finish – Quarterfinal (1-0 loss to Germany)
Russia 2018 Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
Formation – 4-3-3
Strengths – Flexible formations, pace, incredible personnel
Weaknesses – Tactical awareness, team mentality
Major Threats – Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann

The French quest for a 2nd World Cup crown sees them begin as bigger faves than when they won it all in 1998. They have a squad that’s loaded at every position and have been able to leave out players who pretty much any other side would kill to have. Didier Deschamps is the weakest link in this bunch but if he can coach 7 outstanding games, the French will be world champs, they’re that loaded in terms of raw talent available.

The French will get two bars here because they’re that talented and Deschamps is that much of a hindrance. Who are France? Are they an attacking side or a defensive side? A passing side or a direct playing side? The thing Deschamps has never done with this unit is give them a strong identity. You get the sense he’d like a ‘park the bus’ side but doesn’t quite have the huevos to install that because (a) the French people would rise up in arms and (b) he’s got a selection loaded with some of the finest attacking players in the sport.

Are you a fan of Les Bleus? Get an authentic France Jersey from SoccerPro today! Get it before the tournament starts!

Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

The FFF will expect a place in the final with only modesty stopping them from expecting Deschamps to win it all. We’re only half joking; they lost the final of Euro 2016 at home, and were booted out of the World Cup in ‘14 in a life less quarter final display against the eventual champs. Anything but a final showing could see things get interesting in France, there are rumors swirling around a certain Z-man.


DEFENSE:

The French play a variety of ways, they set up the low block, they set up the high block, they press, they back off, they play fast tempo, slow tempo, they go direct, they tiki-taka. This all sounds good and reminiscent of the current Real Madrid at its best until you realize that it isn’t necessarily a philosophy from the coach but more a reaction to broken systems. Where Real Madrid are purposeful and resourceful and show the ability of a hunting leopard to adjust to any style, the French national team under Deschamps are a chameleon, they change their colors just to survive and not get eaten. They have the weapons to be aggressors but they choose to merely survive.

The defense is a good example of this. In terms of personnel, France ought to be top 2 or 3 sides going to Russia. Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti are starting center backs for two of the biggest clubs in world football, they are some of the best at their position in the game yet when they combine for France, it can often be a galore of mistakes. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching the 30th or 40th ranked team in the world rather than one of the absolute faves. You frequently get the sense that the partnership isn’t as studied as it should be. Little mistakes like both men going for the same ball, or letting runners go because one thought the other would take charge can often doom this side. Both men are fabulous talents, they possess every quality you’d want from your centerback, speed, power, vision, ability-on-the-ball, great in the air. If they can figure out the concentration, communication (i.e. who’s the leader of the pair) lapses and take the aggressor role, it’d take a great striker and his pet lion to get past them. If they can’t figure that out, it may be a good idea to drop one of the two and pair the other with Presnel Kimpembe of PSG. He’s without ego and will gladly let his partner lead while being 100% able to mop up errors and handle whatever is thrown his way. France is deep.

At the wingback positions of the back four, Deschamps would like to start Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy. Mendy is still coming back to fitness from an injury that kept him out of most of Man City’s campaign so in his place, Lucas Hernandez may get the starting role. The two wingbacks add width to France’s game, the attack has some truly devastating wingers but they’ll tend to cut into the center and draw away space for the wingbacks to charge into. As with the center backs, these guys are some of the finest in the world at their positions, they’re fast, they can cross, they can dribble, they can defend. With the right structure, they can totally own their wings. The right structure is the key, will they get the support necessary from the midfield? Will the guys in front of them be dropping back to help them cover? Will France decide what they want to be philosophically? If they make a firm decision on what they are, everything falls into place.

In goal, Hugo Lloris is one of the finest goalies in the world. He is prone to conceding some goals that make you wonder but by and large, he is superb and is unlikely to be a liability.

MIDFIELD

The midfield is much like the defense and the rest of the team, you wonder what they are. No one epitomizes that confusion like Paul Pogba. Much like he has done this season at Manchester United, you get the sense he is a #10 being forced to be a central midfielder or a Patrick Vieira. Pogba played his finest when he was shed of most primary defensive responsibilities at Juventus. There he was allowed to operate behind the strikers and weave magic. With France, much like at United, he is pigeon-holed into a central midfield role where he never quite meets expectations, one where he shines one day then looks like a scrub the next.

The likelihood is Pogba will be joined in the middle by N’golo Kante, a player who Deschamps seemingly took a while to warm to. With the French team, Kante never quite hits the same heights he hits at club level, his ability to boss the defensive midfield can be a shadow of itself for France. Again, this probably comes from a lack of clarity of who France are. On his day, he is a no-fly zone who nothing gets past.

Joining Pogba and Kante in midfield will be one of Corentin Tolisso, Steven Nzonzi, Blaise Matuidi or Thomas Lemar. They’re all outstanding players with excellent qualities to bring to the midfield. With a defined structure, they can excel. Whoever plays will be expected to join Pogba in the box-to-box midfield role while Kante will sit slightly behind them. On paper, it’s the makings of a fantasy midfield, in reality, they’ve often got troubled by lesser teams with better designed structures.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba

STRIKERS

In attack, France could afford to leave out all-world stars like Benzema, Ben Yedder, Lacazette, Martial and not really skip a beat.
They will play a starting front three of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann. That’s a pacey attack that should strike fear into any team in the world. Dembele will likely attack from the right wing with Mbappe leading from the left and breaking into the middle. Then again, Deschamps could choose to play Giroud and Griezmann as a front two with Mbappe, Dembele, Fekir or Thauvin behind as a #10. The French are really spoiled for attacking options.

Ideally they will likely start the fastest three and then bring on Giroud as a battering ram option B if things are not quite going according to plan. As Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal found out though with Giroud, you have to trust him and play to his strengths or he doesn’t give you the full benefits of what you expected.

GAME by GAME (v Australia, v Peru, v Denmark)

*Keys to Australia game: Can the Australians frustrate the French and go into halftime goalless or with a lead? Can the Aussie defense stay disciplined and play to the low block to deny France running room behind them? Can Pogba stamp his authority on this game? Can Griezmann grab a couple of goals and get a headstart for the top goalscorer crown?
Prediction: We’ve seen France play down to the level of their opponents far too many times. If they are decisive and choose an identity (ANY identity), they’ll win this by sheer talent. If they are still laissez faire in attitude, Australia has everything to give the French a rough start. France probably wins a very close one.

*Keys to Peru game: Will Guerrero have his ban overturned? Will the Peruvian wings overpower France? Will Farfan be stopped? Can France stamp its identity on this game? Will Pogba deal with the close attentions of Yoshimar Yotun?
Prediction: Even if Deschamps makes up his mind on what the French are, this is still going to be a major fight. Coach Gareca is one of the best coaches at this tournament and if Guerrero’s ban is overturned, Peru would be legitimate threats to snatch a point from this however that ban is unlikely to be ruled away and so France likely win this in a closely fought affair.

*Keys to Denmark game: Can Eriksen be kept quiet? Will the Danes strength of identity overpower the French? Can France figure out who they are? Will the individual prowess of the French prove too much?
Prediction: With 6 points and a place in the next round likely already probably in the bag, France will possibly play their reserves, and with the Danes having something to fight for in this game, it should be an entertaining closely fought affair. Once again, if the French know who they are, they should win this. If they have not picked a camp, the Danes will take this game.

france 2018 wc

france world cup squad 2018

Here’s the French squad for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda

DEFENDERS (8): Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Mendy, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Benjamin Pavard, Adil Rami, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez

MIDFIELDERS (6): Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Thomas Lemar, Steven Nzonzi, Corentin Tolisso

FORWARDS (6): Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Florian Thauvin, Nabil Fekir, Ousmane Dembele

Piece by Tise Okuo, frequent Center Circle writer, a recovering fan of Arsenal FC and lover of football.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

About the author: Tise Okuo

 

Soccer nut. Arsenal fan, used to enduring hard times. Admirer of the purity of tiki-taka, total football, catenaccio, and any other system bold enough to be itself. In my spare time, I am a professional thinker. Engage with me on Google+.

 

Recent posts in World Cup

 

No Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Post of the Week