World Cup 2022: Can France Be the First Team to Repeat Since 1962?
At World Cup 2022 in Qatar, the French National Team will be trying to make soccer history. Not since Pelé led the 1958 and 1962 Brazilian squads to back-to-back trophies has a team repeated as World Cup champions in consecutive tournaments. At this year’s event, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and Hugo Lloris will try to etch their name in the history books and lift another Jules Rimet. However, they will have to do it without injured countrymen like Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, and now, Karim Benzema.
France’s World Cup 2022 squad
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes)
Defenders: Benoit Badiashile (Monaco), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Koundé (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphaël Varane (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille)
Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Hugo Lloris gets one more World Cup in net
French keeper Hugo Lloris is 35 now, but he’s still a solid player both for Tottenham and France. He’s played 14 World Cup matches, including all but one (rest) in last year’s championship campaign.
The veteran net-minder has started 21 games for Spurs this season, has four Premier League clean sheets, and is T-7 in saves with 45. There’s not a ton to say about Lloris because fans and French manager Didier Deschamps all know what they are going to get from the Frech GK1.
All that said, AC Milan keeper Mike Maignan is hurt and not in the squad, so the backup options of Alphonse Areola and Steve Mandanda are a bit shaky.
France’s young, talented, and unproven defense
The French defense might be the most exciting but also the most nerve-wracking part of the team. Veteran center-back Presnel Kimpembe is out of the World Cup with a knock, and Raphaël Varane is also recovering from an injury. So, he won’t start, at least at first. Every other French defender is 26 and under.
The starting center-back roles will be a contest between Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konaté (23), Barcelona’s Jules Koundé (24), Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano (24), and Arsenal’s William Saliba (21). It’s a group that will carry the FFF for a decade to come, but are they too young to lift gold in 2022?
As far as the full-backs go, the Hernandez brothers, Lucas and Theo, will rotate based on the needs of the team in a given game (Lucas is better defensively, Theo offensively), and Benjamin Pavard will hold down the other side, with Koundé getting some run on the outside as well.
No Kante, no Pogba, no problem?
The biggest losses due to injury come in the midfield, with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba missing World Cup 2022. While Kante is getting up there in age (31) and Pogba is struggling in the professional ranks, they were both key cogs in the last go-around.
Adrian Rabiot is the veteran presence in the midfield, but he likely wouldn’t have been on the field (or even on the team) if Pogba and Kante were in Qatar. Like the defense, there are several youngsters in the French midfield who are the future of the squad but might not be all the way ready for primetime in 2022.
These French names that you may not know now but will soon are Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni (22) and Eduardo Camavinga (20), Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana (23), and Marseille’s Matteo Guendouzi (23).
Karim Benzema out, but still plenty of pop
The biggest shocker of the lead-up to France’s World Cup 2022 is that Karim Benzema became the latest to bow out with an injury the day before the tournament gets underway.
Didier Deschamps has until Monday to name a replacement, and players like Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Nabil Fekir (Real Betis), and Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen) could all be options.
Whoever Deschamps chooses is fine because the French attack won’t move beyond the starting four all that often. Olivier Giroud will play up front, drawing the defense’s attention as he did in 2018, with Antoine Greizmann behind him in the second striker role.
On either side of them will be Ousmane Dembélé and arguably the best player in the world right now, Kylian Mbappe, to complete the most fearsome attacking quartet in all of football.
What will the France lineup look like in Qatar?
L’Équipe is reporting that Didier Deschamps has already decided on France’s opening match lineup vs. Australia, which is the 4-2-3-1 pictured above.
Hugo Lloris is net, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez are at the full-back spots, and Ibrahima Konaté and Dayot Upamecano are starting over William Saliba at center-back. In the midfield, it’s Adrian Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni, as expected, and, of course, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Greizmann, Olivier Giroud, and Ousmane Dembélé up top.
This isn’t a shock (except maybe at CB) and will likely be the base of the French team throughout the tournament. However, the depth behind these players is the biggest question, and that won’t come into focus until a few matches in.