Balance essential for Deschamps if France want to dream big

International Friendly - France vs Italy

As the World Cup kicks off this afternoon, there still a strong belief that the opening game between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia will only be a warm up to more stellar contests.

Neither side is expected to get beyond the knockout rounds at best, and even getting out of the group would be a bonus for both nations.

In reality, a small number are expected to be competing at the business end of the tournament – with Didier Deschamps’ France among them.

Les Bleus stuttered at times during qualifying, but they eventually turned on the style when it mattered to oust Sweden from top spot, and eliminate the Netherlands.

Their World Cup preparations have gone very smoothly, comfortably beating Russia, the Republic of Ireland and Italy, before drawing with the USA.

And Deschamps, who won the World Cup as French captain back in 1998, has made some brave calls as he looks to bring the Jules Rimet trophy back to Paris.

Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette, Aymeric Laporte, Adrien Rabiot and Kingsley Coman were all omitted from the final 23 man squad.

Instead he has opted for in form Ligue 1 stars Florian Thauvin and Nabil Fekir, to play alongside the more established Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.

With real potency in attack, with young superstars Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele also in line to set the tournament alight, Deschamps has to strike a balance.

He does have the age old headache of too many attackers to pick from, but in truth, selecting a side behind them, that gets the best from everyone, is a tougher task.

Paul Pogba remains an enigma, devastating at times when he is allowed to play further forward, but he is a frustrating figure in a deeper role.

In defensive midfield, the ever reliable N’Golo Kante is likely to be paired with Blaise Matuidi, but neither player is particularly forward minded, and if Pogba is no off form, they will struggle in combining defence with forwards.

At the back they have been denied of the experienced presence of Laurent Koscielny, who is ruled out through injury.

In his place, Deschamps only has two defenders with over 20 caps – Adil Rami and Raphael Varane – with the latter set to start alongside Samuel Umtiti.

Whilst they have arguably the strongest 23 in the competition, France need to find a structure to get the best from their star players – and as Deschamps knows from his own career, that may come via dropping a big name or two.



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