Benzema-Less France Look to Break ‘Champions Curse’ With Star-Studded Squad


France have a big task ahead of themselves to end the long-standing ‘Champions curse’ which started in 2010 when the 2006 World Cup winners Italy were eliminated from the group stage of the tournament. The curse followed Spain and Germany in 2014 and 2018 respectively in the following tournaments. Didier Deschamps will probably manage the French team for the last time in this World Cup as Zinedine Zidane is expected to take over charge.

The defending champions have unarguably one of the most lethal forces in the attacking department with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman and Olivier Giroud. However, an injury to Karim Benzema, which ruled him out of the World Cup will force Deschamps to change his plans in the last moments.

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France produced a dominant show last World Cup where they beat favourites Argentina, Belgium and Croatia to win the World Cup trophy. Mbappe turned up on the big stage in Russia as he lit up the tournament with his lightning pace which was too much to handle for the opposition.

Ngolo Kante was the unsung hero for France during the glorious campaign as the center defending midfielder stopped the likes of Lionel Messi which laid the foundation of a memorable tournament. However, they will miss his valuable services this time as an injury forced him out of the tournament.

While Paul Pogba has also been out of the French squad which might make them vulnerable when it comes to the creativity department. Deschamps has to play with a young midfield now to get the team run in Qatar.

The spotlight will be on young Real Madrid duo Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga to hold the midfield but they still lack creativity in the department. Adrien Rabiot might start for them but there will always be doubts over his quality as he has not been a regular starter in the Juventus line-up for quite a long time. Four years ago he missed out on a place in the victorious 2018 World Cup squad and refused to be included on a standby list.

In the defensive department, Les Bleus have some solid center backs in the unit – Jules Kounde, Ibrahima Konate, Dayot Upamecano, Raphael Varane, William Saliba and Raphael Varane. It will be a problem plenty for Deschamps to pick the ideal pair. However, they lack depth in the full backs as Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard are the only ones to hold the positions.

However, Hugo Lloris has not been at his best in recent times but he has to deep dive into the past to find his best version.

Many might not agree but Griezmann holds the key for the French time to emulate the success of Russia once again. In the absence of an experienced creative midfielder, the Atletico Madrid star might get pushed into a central role in the attacking unit as a CAM. The 31-year-old has done the job on big stages in World Cup 2018 and Euros 2016. His form has dipped in recent times but the French jersey has always brought the best out of him.

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After missing out on becoming World Champions, Big Benz was hungry to add a World Cup trophy to his profile after winning the coveted Ballon d’Or this year, but an injury in French training session broke his dream.

Benzema has also stated that he wants to show the world in Qatar why he deserved the Ballon d’Or this year.

Mbappe, who was one of the top-performer in Russia’s WC, is all focussed to guide his team to win back-to-back trophies. He has been touted as the next big thing in football and has started making big waves across the globe after becoming the highest-paid footballer in Europe.

The 21-year-old enjoyed playing in the French set-up as Deschamps put him on the left flank which he thinks is an ideal place for him.

While another young talent, Dembele will look to set the big stage on fire. Dembele has all the credentials to become the next Ballon d’Or winner but constant injuries have pulled him down so far in his career. However, he has found his best form this year for Barcelona as he emerged as one of the top assist providers in the world.

With no Benzema in the squad, France will once again rely on Olivier Giroud to get the job done in front of the goal. The AC Milan man hasn’t been the starter for almost a year in the French camp but he has a knack for scoring goals at crunch moments. Not to ignore, he is just three goals away from becoming the leading goal-scorer for France surpassing legendary Thierry Henry.

Deschamps just has to find the right starting line-up from the star-studded squad as he has too many quality defenders and forwards in his squads. While might change his midfield according to the opposition as they lack stability in that department.

France Squad

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

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

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

Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St Germain), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt)

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