Didier Deschamps knows exactly what it takes to win a World Cup.
And he’ll know he has more than enough attacking talent in his France squad to repeat the success he had as a player on home soil back in 1998.
In midfield and up front, Deschamps has a good blend of exciting young players and seasoned campaigners, in or approaching their prime, at his disposal.
Paul Pogba, Nabil Fekir, Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar are regarded among Europe’s elite, while Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kante and Antione Griezmann add vital experience.
At the back, though, it’s a different story.
Real Madrid centre back Raphael Varane aside, France’s defence is shaky. With left-back Benjamin Mendy’s only just back from a long injury layoff in April, Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny struggling for form, and Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti lacking experience, Les Bleus’ options are limited.
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the team captain, could be busy.
France qualified convincingly, finishing top of their group after victories over Bulgaria (4-1 and 0-1), Netherlands (0-1 and 4-0), Sweden (2-1), Luxembourg (1-3) and Belarus (2-1).
Hiccups came in the form of draws with Belarus (0-0) and Luxembourg (0-0) and a loss to Sweden (2-1).
Arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world, N’Golo Kante will be key to France’s chances of success, shielding Les Bleus’ vulnerable back four and allowing his creative compatriots to probe.
He played a huge role in both Leicester and Chelsea winning the Premier League, and the Blues’ £32million man will be equally important to his national side at the World Cup.
When Kylian Mbappe completes his permanent £166million move from Monaco to Paris Saint-Germain in summer after a season-long loan, he’ll become the world’s most expensive teenager.
So far, the hefty price tag – and hype – appears justified. Likened by Arsene Wenger to Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry, he’s scored 10 in 19 for PSG this season.
A starring role for his country in Russia will only further enhance the fast, powerful and skillful 19-year-old’s burgeoning reputation.
Squad in full
Goalkeepers: Alphone Areola (PSG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Adil Rami (Marseille), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)
Saturday June 16 – France vs Australia, 11am, Kazan Arena, Kazan
Thursday June 21 – France vs Peru, 4pm, Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg
Tuesday June 26 – Denmark vs France, 3pm – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
William Hill have France at 11/2 to win the tournament outright.
*odds correct at the time of publishing
Read our comprehensive guide to the 2018 World Cup HERE.
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