Just two years ago, France came tantalizingly close to winning the Euro Cup 2016. Now, with the 2018 World Cup just upon the horizon, France appears to be looking at this tournament as something along the lines of unfinished business.
But whether or not the French players themselves face the same urgency to take care of said business will be the biggest storyline for this team.
Where France will be able to stand toe-to-toe and possibly even look down at the rest of the world’s competition is the mixture of the “quality” and “quantity” of players the team has. Put another way, this team has a combination of star player and proven contributors flanking them. Manager Didier Deschamps is going to have his hands full coming up with lineups and rotations during the World Cup, but that’s a problem that virtually every manager in the world would give up anything to have.
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Guys like Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe among this high-profile group of blues, but Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann remains the team’s centerpiece. He, along with Pogba, are the guys whom the team is built around, and whom the players want to play side.
One secret “X-factor” guy to keep an eye on? That would be Olivier Giroud. The reserve scorer has been tremendous off the bench this year, setting scoring records for the national team.
But as much of a boon as this much talent may be, there’s a certain element of “more money, more problems” that comes along with it. Specifically, the biggest thing France has to worry about is whether they start believing what their press clippings say about them, instead of going out and validating things on the pitch.
The French team did ride the swell of national unity back in 2013, as the team advanced and attained the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil. There were some residual effects from that run in Euro 2016, but many feel like that momentum is all but gone.
Deschamps earned a contract extension through 2020 thanks to the team’s success in the past, but he’s come under fire in recent times for not getting more out of a squad that’s as good — at least on paper — as any team in the world.
Pogba and Griezmann, in particular, have put themselves in the public spotlight in such a way that things could potentially get unpleasant if they don’t deliver on the promise of this French team. Both star footballers fancy themselves as some types of “multi-media moguls,” with focuses on rapping, acting, dancing, and more. Take Griezmann, for example, who recently made waves stating he’d rather be playing basketball. Saying such a statement out loud, only weeks away from the start of the World Cup, was considered blasphemy.
Nobody is going to question whether the French have the guys to win this whole tournament, because they’ve got a group of guys that are as good as anyone. The biggest question is whether those guys will go out and prove it, or just keep telling themselves that while watching other teams surpass them in football’s biggest tournament.