FIFA World Cup | With Mbappé and Deschamps, France's future looks just fine

The defeat in the 2022 FIFA World Cup final will sting, but the foundations of France's national football team are solid with just under four years to go until the next World Cup in 2026

Updated - December 19, 2022 06:55 pm IST

Published - December 19, 2022 04:36 pm IST - LUSAIL

France’s Kylian Mbappe, left, and France’s head coach Didier Deschamps on the eve of the World Cup final match between France and Argentina, in Doha, Qatar

France’s Kylian Mbappe, left, and France’s head coach Didier Deschamps on the eve of the World Cup final match between France and Argentina, in Doha, Qatar | Photo Credit: AP

France played its part in one of the most memorable finishes in World Cup history, even though the defending champions failed to retain the title. Kylian Mbappé’s hat trick of goals all came late — first in regulation, then in extra time — and helped give France a 3-3 draw with Argentina in the final.

ALSO READ | France coach Deschamps rues 'cruel' World Cup final defeat

In the penalty shootout, it seemed destined for Lionel Messi to win his first World Cup at the age of 35, not Mbappé to win his second at 23.

Still, the foundations of France's national football team are solid with just under four years to go until the next World Cup in 2026.

Expectation vs performance

France outperformed expectations even as the defending champion and the world’s fourth-ranked team.

A run of poor results in the UEFA Nations League, including a home loss in June to Denmark, plus a litany of injuries before and after the squad for Qatar was selected kept high hopes in check.

Then, in the last training session before the flight to Doha, forward Christopher Nkunku was injured by a teammate.

It got worse in Qatar. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was forced out of the squad because of an injury and then Lucas Hernández, the left back in the 2018 team, picked up a season-ending knee injury nine minutes into France’s first game against Australia.

France persevered and got better as the team passed through the knockout rounds — against Poland, England and Morocco.

The record now under France coach Didier Deschamps of two World Cup finals and a quarterfinal, plus a European Championship final and a UEFA Nations League title is truly impressive.

“I’m optimistic about the future,” said Deschamps, who has expertly mixed youth and experience in his teams. “A lot of players have played in many of those tournaments and have got experience.”

Who’s out

Only four of the 26 players in the squad has turned 30 and Deschamps has made clear he wants to sign the contract extension the French football federation says it wants to offer.

This year's World Cup could be the last for Olivier Giroud, who at 36 took the central striker role left by Benzema and broke Thierry Henry’s all-time France scoring record.

Giroud ended the tournament with four goals and now has 53, two ahead of Henry. Mbappé has 36 and could take the record before the 2026 World Cup.

Benzema turns 35 on Monday, and captain Hugo Lloris has his 36th birthday one week later. At 31, and after a standout World Cup, Antoine Griezmann can look toward another World Cup.

Deschamps is still only 54 and looks far from fatigued in his 11th year on the job.

Who’s next

The next generation of players to revitalize Les Bleus is already at the World Cup.

Several made debuts this year and their progress in Qatar was accelerated by all the injuries and illness to long-established players.

Aurélien Tchouaméni was joined by former Monaco teammate Youssouf Fofana in an emergency midfield pairing, and 21-year Arsenal defender William Saliba also got playing time.

If Lloris does step down, 27-year-old Mike Maignan is primed to add to his handful of international games. A domestic league winner at both Lille and AC Milan, Maignan also was injured and missed the World Cup.

Nkunku, now 25, will move to Chelsea next season after four years at Leipzig and impressing in the Champions League.

What’s next

On March 24, France will host the Netherlands at Stade de France to start one of the toughest European Championship qualifying groups.

A clash between the World Cup finalists and quarterfinalists is the most anticipated game on the schedule when national teams return to action in three months.

Greece, Ireland and Gibraltar are also in the group, which plays through November and will send two teams directly to Euro 2024 in Germany.

France also has available dates in September and October for friendly games against teams from outside Europe.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.