World Cup Countdown: Overabundance of French talent won't be enough

Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette. Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman. Sevilla's Wissam Ben Yedder. And Marseille's Dimitri Payet, injured in Wednesday's Europa League final.

And we won't even throw in Real Madrid's Karim Benzema, who's been on the outs with the French federation since "L'Affaire Sextape" broke in 2015.

How do you say "excess" in French?

These six players are among the forwards France won't be taking to the World Cup, underscoring the massive challenge Coach Didier Deschamps and his staff had in getting down to 23 players for the World Cup.

On paper, no team has more talent than France: N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba in midfield and Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele up front.

And it's young talent. Pogba, 25, would be considered an old man on the team. Half the squad Deschamps picked is 24 years old or younger.

Invisible at final hurdles. But talent alone doesn't win the seven-game slog that is the World Cup. Four years ago, France coasted to the quarterfinals, then shut down, falling to eventual champion Germany, 1-0. Les Bleus got their revenge in the semifinals of Euro 2016, beating the Germans, 2-0, in Marseille, then looked the shadow of that team, losing to Portugal, 1-0, in overtime in the final.

Loads of question marks. France is not yet a complete team. There are questions about the middle of the backline, exposed by Colombia in its 3-2 comeback win in March. The two projected starters at outside back, Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe, are coming off injuries.

Pogba remains an enigma, a game-changer some days, ineffective in other games. For all the attacking talent, the often-aligned Olivier Giroud is the lone target man, leaving how Deschamps will line up the Bleus -- 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2? -- a big question mark.

Tuneups. France will play three games at home: Ireland, Italy and finally the USA June 9 in Lyon.

First round. The Bleus are the top seeds in Group C, where they will play Australia, Peru and Denmark.

France Roster (23 players):

GOALKEEPERS: Alphonse Areola (Paris SG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham/ENG), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
DEFENDERS: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris SG), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City/ENG), Benjamin Pavard (VfB Stuttgart/GER), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona/ESP), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/ESP).
MIDFIELDERS: N'Golo Kante (Chelsea/ENG), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus/ITA), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla/ESP), Paul Pogba (Manchester United/ENG), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich/GER).
FORWARDS: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona/ESP), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea/ENG), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (Paris SG), Florian Thauvin (Marseille).
1 comment about "World Cup Countdown: Overabundance of French talent won't be enough".
  1. R2 Dad, May 17, 2018 at 8:12 p.m.

    Playing football manager:
    ...but of course getting the best players on the field is no receipe for success.

    The same way Italy's focus on a singular striker up top precludes Gio or Mario, insisting on a 4-2-3-1 (or worse, a 4-4-2) with Giroud as the target means sitting top players. The problem for France, as always, is mentality. Far from home, they do not have the mental fortitude of a Germany or Spain. Quarters only, unless something in the group stage can focus them. This team has even more talent than the 1998 winners, but they need space to operate.

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