World Cup 2022 team guides part 15: France | France

This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 32 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 20 November.

The plan

France come into this tournament as the defending champions, and with easily the deepest pool of talent from which to pick. Didier Deschamps looks set to stick with the 3-4-1-2 he used at the Euros last summer, even if injuries mean the players will change. The team’s recent results have been decidedly less than impressive with one win in six competitive matches, but at least Nations League relegation was avoided.

The loss of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté through injury means the midfield that triumphed at Russia 2018 will have completely changed. Real Madrid’s Aurélien Tchouaméni will probably partner one of Mattéo Guendouzi, Adrien Rabiot, or his former Monaco teammate Youssouf Fofana. Fofana and Guendouzi are the progressive options but Rabiot may have the edge given his experience, even as Deschamps averred his confidence in youth after France’s win over Austria. “From the moment I choose players, it means that I trust them,” he said. “If they’re selected, they have everything necessary to play at the top level.”

Quick Guide

France group fixtures


v Australia Tue 22 Nov, 7pm Al Janoub Stadium

v Denmark Sat 26 Nov, 4pm Stadium 974

v Tunisia Wed 30 Nov, 3pm Education City Stadium

All times GMT

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Elsewhere, Hugo Lloris is 35, but still a top professional, and should become France’s record appearance holder, provided they reach the last 16. In defence, Presnel Kimpembe is much-maligned for his errors, but he or Benoît Badiashile will have to step in if Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez fails to recover from injury.

France have two of the world’s best attackers in Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema but it’s not yet clear if Deschamps knows how to get the best out of the pair – in a tournament that is historically short on goals, especially in the group stages, getting that combination right could well prove to be the difference.

The coach

Wary of the clashing egos and scandals that have engulfed previous tournaments, Didier Deschamps has always placed squad harmony ahead of picking the best players. Despite his pragmatic playing style and being labelled unsophisticated by the French media, that strategy has worked. France are reigning World Cup and Nations League champions and Deschamps deserves better than the begrudging praise he has received from a haughty press pack. However, after a decade in charge, and with his contract up after the tournament, his future remains uncertain with Zinedine Zidane positioning himself to take over.

Star player

No longer the grinning teenager that electrified the last World Cup, Kylian Mbappé’s tournament may yet be characterised by off-field issues. With his sense of self-importance rising, Mbappé seems intent on leaving PSG just a few months into a new contract, supposedly unhappy at the team not being geared towards his style. Meanwhile, allegations from Mathias Pogba that his brother Paul tried to “curse” Mbappé via a witch doctor could yet divide the camp. However, Mbappé has grown as a player over the last 18 months, adding a ruthless authority to his performances while scoring 39 goals and adding 26 assists in 46 games last season.

Antoine Griezmann, pictured here going close against Austrai in the Nations League, is still a fixture in this France side.
Antoine Griezmann, pictured here going close against Austria in the Nations League, is still a starter for France. Photograph: Christophe Petit-Tesson/EPA

Unsung Hero

With much focus on Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann has faded into the background of late. But his undulating club form since joining Barcelona in 2019 has obscured his continued excellence, and importance, for France. A child of Atlético Madrid’s fierce “Cholismo” style, Griezmann embodies Deschamps’ streetwise, stoic ideals and remains a favourite of the coach. He will remain a crucial link between midfield and attack in Qatar after six underappreciated qualifying goals were key in seeing France through.

Probable lineup

France probable lineup

Qatar stance

France have joined many of their fellow Uefa representatives in pledging to have their captain wear a rainbow armband in support of the LGBTQ+ community, but what looks to be a far more strident step is the banning of “fan zones” during the tournament. Customarily, France’s matches would be played on large outdoor screens across the country, but the mayors of cities from Paris to Strasbourg have come out against them, for fear of normalising the tournament. The French Football Federation has argued that the tournament “has brought progress to Qatar” and contributed to a compensation fund for workers but the players have remained silent, despite contemporaries such as Toni Kroos and Leon Goretzka speaking out.

National anthem

An early (the earliest?) example of the “European march” style of anthems, La Marseillaise is arguably the world’s most recognisable and stirring. Written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg, its lyrics were meant to encourage soldiers to defend France against foreign incursions. It gained its popular name when it was adopted by soldiers who marched from Marseille to Paris to aid in the capital’s defence, and became the anthem in 1795. While it was later banned under Napoleon, it was reinstalled permanently in the late 19th century.

Quick Guide

Saliba, Konaté and Giroud in France World Cup squad


Olivier Giroud, Ibrahima Konaté and William Saliba were named in France’s squad for the World Cup as coach Didier Deschamps unveiled a 25-man group – one fewer than the rules allow – amid injury concerns for the defending champions that dissuaded him from naming his preferred group size of 23 players.

The experienced Giroud, recalled in March after a nine-month hiatus following the team’s early Euro 2020 exit, has been in good form for Milan and France and is two goals shy of Thierry Henry’s all-time national scoring record of 51 goals.

“He knows where he stands. He knows what my position is. It’s better for the French team that he is with us,” said Deschamps. Several players have been struggling with injuries, including Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, Paris St-Germain centre back Presnel Kimpembe and Manchester United defender Raphaël Varane. Liverpool’s Konaté and Arsenal’s Saliba add a youthful look to the defensive picks.

With Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kanté injured and ruled out of the tournament, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Adrien Rabiot and Eduardo Camavinga were among the six midfielders named. Up front, Kylian Mbappé was named along with Giroud, Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembélé, Antoine Griezmann and Christopher Nkunku. Guardian sport and Reuters

Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez, Theo Hernández, Presnel Kimpembe, Ibrahima Konaté, Jules Koundé, Benjamin Pavard, William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Raphaël Varane.
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga, Youssouf Fofana, Matteo Guendouzi, Adrien Rabiot, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Jordan Veretout.
Forwards: Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembélé, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, Christopher Nkunku.

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All-time cult hero

Scorer of a record 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup, Just Fontaine managed 30 in only 21 appearances for France before his enforced retirement due to injury at the age of 29. Fontaine joined Albert Batteux’s legendary Reims side in 1956 from Nice. Paired with fellow all-time great Raymond Kopa, Fontaine helped Reims reach the 1960 European Cup final and became a key exponent of jeu à la rémoise, now better known as Champagne Football, a central idea within France’s footballing identity.

Adam White and Eric Devin write for Get French Football News. Follow Adam here and Eric here on Twitter.

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