France coach Didier Deschamps has insisted Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe and Karim Benzema will be fit to start the World Cup following recent injuries.
The national coach, who announced his selections on TF1’s eight news on Wednesday night, before holding a fractious press conference to explain his decisions, intends to change his tactical approach in Qatar, abandoning a recent trial and returning to four. With a rear guard of three.
He would instinctively prefer to pick a 23-man party, but with injury problems for many of his players, he will take a bigger squad to Qatar. While Deschamps has previously insisted that all players going to a major tournament play for their clubs in the build-up to the tournament, he has made an exception with Varane in particular.
It reflects the position of the center half in the national set-up.
The 29-year-old has not been linked with Manchester United since picking up a hamstring injury at Chelsea on October 22. He will not feature for his club before joining the national squad, but Varane is optimistic that he will be able to train. His international teammates next week.
Benzema has played just 27 minutes for Real Madrid since mid-October after picking up an ankle injury. There are concerns over the fitness of Kimpembe, who has started one game for Paris Saint-Germain since September 10 and continues to be troubled by an Achilles complaint. Kimpembe is expected to train at PSG on Thursday and is targeting match time for Sunday’s Ligue 1 clash against Auxerre.
Liverpool centre-half Ibrahima Konate has returned to the squad despite returning to the first team at club level following a knee injury.
AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan has failed to recover from a calf problem – Rennes’s Steve Mandanda, aged 37, and West Ham United’s Alphonse Areoloa will serve as Hugo Lloris’ back-ups – with Marseille’s Jonathan Clouse opting out. And Aston Villa’s Lucas Digne reflects on Deschamps’ decision to return from his recent 3-4-1-2 formation to a successful 4-2-3-1 in 2018.
“It will be four at the back,” said Deschamps. “We did a lot of analysis (of recent games), I had a lot of discussions with my staff and my players. The feelings expressed influenced my decision. We did some really good things in this system (with three backs), but we struggled at times. We turned around some bad situations but we were often unbalanced. To win a match, you have to be strong defensively.
“We will have to defend better, defend better, not at the expense of our attacking intent, but if I choose this formation I feel we can do both. The system guides players to make various choices. There are nine defenders in the squad – one more than usual.
Asked about Konate’s inclusion, he added: “You don’t start at his age in a Liverpool team who have recently become European champions by accident.”
In his press conference, a distraught Deschamps admitted it was “not easy” to pick this squad due to injuries, denying him Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, whose midfield partnership was so instrumental in lifting the trophy in Russia four years ago. .
Real Madrid will focus more on midfielder Aurelian Tchoumeni, who has emerged as a regular in the absence of a more experienced pairing. His teenage club mate Eduardo Camavinga has made the cut despite winning just one cap in the past two years.
“What is important against Eduardo is the lack of playing time, but he is at Real Madrid,” said Deschamps. “Only international is ahead of him. There’s always something going on when he’s on the field. He doesn’t do everything well, he likes some positions better than others, but having his versatility is an advantage. Add to that a great state of mind, he has an infectious smile and is a great listener. “
There is a call-up for Marseille’s Jordan Veretout and his club-mate Matteo Guendouzi, who did not play a single minute for the national team in 2022, as well as highly promising Monaco midfielder Youssouf Fofana. He struck up a good partnership with Tchouameni at the Principality last season before his summer move to Madrid.
“I have faith in these players,” said Deschamps. “You know what the two absent players (Pogba and Kante) represent in terms of experience and leadership. Fortunately, in various encounters, these new players had some game-time. It’s not going to give them the experience of Paul and Ng, but I still have faith in them.
The French challenge will be led by PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Benzema. Veteran Milan forward Olivier Giroud has been selected for his third World Cup, two goals shy of Thierry Henry’s national record of 51 points.
The players will report to the national training camp in Clairefontaine, near Paris, next Monday afternoon to begin their preparations. The French delegation is due to fly to Doha on Wednesday morning, six days before their first group game, where they will be based at the Al-Mesila complex on the outskirts of the capital. They will train for the first time on Thursday at the Al-Saad pitch, a 15-minute drive from the team hotel.
National teams must submit their final rosters to FIFA on Monday evening (November 14), but there is still room for changes to be made 24 hours before the first match of the tournament if players are injured. That means France have until November 21, 24 hours before the opening match against Australia, to make further changes.
(Photo: Lars Baron – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)