Plenty of New Faces in France's World Cup Squad

2018 World Cup in Russia

With less than a month to go until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, French football fans have been actively discussing their team’s chances in excitement of the upcoming tournament. Up until recently, these discussions were mostly speculation as no one yet knew which players French national team coach Didier Deschamps would pick to go to Russia. However, things are now clearer after Deschamps announced his 23-man squad on Monday, which included more than a small number of surprises.

Looking at the names on the 23-man list will probably come as a bit of a shock for anyone who has followed Les Bleus over the past few years as Deschamps seems to have focused more on youth than past tournament experience. In fact, only nine of the 23 players France will take to the World Cup were on the roster at their last major tournament, Euro 2016, and only six of the squad were with the team for the 2014 World Cup. This has to be at least a bit surprising for many fans considering that France finished runners-up at Euro 2016 after narrowly losing the final to Portugal 1-0.

This means that France will be leaving some of their most experienced players at home in the hopes that their prodigious youth can lead them to glory in Russia next month. Although there were a number of notable omissions from the squad, none was more surprising than Dmitri Payet, the mercurial Marseille forward who was one of the team’s biggest stars at Euro 2016. Unfortunately for Payet, the injury he picked up while playing in last week’s Europa League final doomed his chances to once again star for his nation.

Although the player himself says he’ll be fit, Deschamps wasn’t willing to gamble and specifically pointed to the injury as the reason he left the striker off the roster. According to Deschamps, the ‘risk of relapse’ was too great.

In addition to Payet, another notable name left off the squad was young Manchester United forward Anthony Martial. Like Payet, Martial also put in several strong performances during Euro 2016. However, his indifferent club form over this past season and relative lack of playing time led to Deschamps overlooking him in favor of 25-year-old winger Florian Thauvin. Playing his club football for Marseille, Thauvin is coming off a remarkable season that saw him score 22 goals in 34 matches. However, he is relatively untested in international competition, and has only previously represented his country three times. Still, Thauvin may not get much of a chance to show his worth, as he is surely behind Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe for a place in France’s front three.

With other big names like Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Benjamin Mendy and Raphael Varane also on the 23-man roster, there is no doubt that this France team has huge talent. Still, only time will tell whether Deschamps got his squad selection right.

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