World Cup team Preview: France

France are favourites to emerge out of a relatively tame Group C which contains Australia, Peru and Denmark, although it will likely be in the knockout stages where their top players are tested.

Since being losing finalists to Portugal in Euro 2016, Les Bleus are yet to take the next step and dominate international football.

Their potential going forward is immense given they have the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann. Yet, a few question marks remain at the back and in midfield.

As a unit they have lacked consistency in the bigger matches although they only lost once in qualifying. With that said, France manager Didier Deschamps has a big challenge in trying to blend a talented squad of individuals into a cohesive unit.

Defensively, there could be weaknesses in the two full-back positions should Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy not prove their fitness. Both spent the majority of the season on the sidelines with injury. How back-ups Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez step up to the challenge should they be needed could be crucial.

In midfield, the form of Paul Pogba will also fall under the microscope. On his day the playmaker can win matches on his own, although he showed for Manchester United more than once his tendency to remain anonymous.

A star to look out for and one who already has a big reputation is Mbappe. Just as Pele in 1958, Diego Maradona in 1982 and Lionel Messi in 2006 – the tournament is an opportunity to showcase the teenager’s talent to the world. In 2017/18, Mbappe hit 21 goals in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain and it seems the 19-year-old has the football world at his feet.

Nonetheless, France will be expected to excel in Russia and reaching the semi-finals is the minimum French fans would expect. Should they not do so, it may call into question the future of Deschamps, who has a contract that runs until 2020.

France squad:

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain).

Defenders: Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Adil Rami (Marseille), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid).

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Ngolo Kante (Chelsea), Steven Nzonzi (Sevilla).

Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Thomas Lemar (Monaco).

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