The 2018 World Cup in Russia draws ever closer, with everyone already trying to predict the eventual winner. With so many strong teams, including the likes of Argentina, Spain, Brazil, France, and the reigning champions Germany, there are plenty of sides ready to cause an upset on football’s biggest stage. As it stands, Germany and Brazil are the favourites to take home the FIFA World Cup Trophy, and yet France look to be coming into their own. So, here’s why Les Bleus could be considered more than mere contenders for the 2018 World Cup.
The Pogba-Martial partnership has blossomed
Source: Anas, via Twitter
Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial are two of world football’s hottest talents and both play for the same Premier League team. Even though Martial has had to go above and beyond to prove himself to manager Jose Mourinho, he finally broke into the United first team and has since been sublime. Pogba, despite much of his season being mired by injury, has been sensational in midfield; one of the true superstars of the English top division.
Best of all for the French national team is that the two are visibly linking up on a regular basis. Playing one-twos, cutting up defences, foreseeing each other’s movement; Martial and Pogba have been a dangerous duo for United. With Pogba playmaking from anywhere on the field, and Martial making darting runs down the left, up the middle, and taking the ball past inordinate numbers of defenders, the two have teamed up for five of the duo’s 14 total goals by 22nd January this season. Pogba has assisted four of Martial’s goals, and Martial has assisted one of Pogba’s goals.
Pogba himself has stated that he knew that Martial would be able to play his way back into the France team, despite being out of favour with Mourinho for much of last season. The midfielder labelled his striking counterpart a “big, big, big talent” as well as “one of the best players I have ever seen or trained with.” If these two French stars go to the World Cup, in the form they’ve been in recently, they will play and link up regularly.
Strong defence, almighty attack
Source: SR All Stars Argentina, via Twitter
Along with Anthony Martial, the French national team boasts a plethora of attacking talent: Didier Deschamps is going to have a very tough time selecting his strike force for the upcoming tournament. If he can find the game time, or even if he can’t, Olivier Giroud provides a good option for a change of style, with his Arsenal teammate Alexandre Lacazette coming in as a more traditional striker. Then there’s also wunderkind Kylian Mbappe, Kingsley Coman, Florian Thauvin, and Antoine Griezmann.
The only issue with the supposed star of the bunch, Griezmann, is his current transfer situation. Barcelona have come knocking and are expected to trigger his release clause when it kicks in over the summer, and are 6/4 to land him by the end of the summer transfer window over at William Hill, so his mindset in the tournament will be an important factor. Then again, even though the manager seems against it, France could yet call up Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.
Whoever they take from this fine batch of ever-improving talents, France looks primed to score against any opponent that has the misfortune of playing them. Then, their defence, made up of experienced heads and youthful speed – as well as the non-stop N’Golo Kante protecting them – will be expecting a clean sheet in almost every game.
Important experience from Euro 2016
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A rather young France team made it all the way to Euro 2016 final, only to become unstuck against a Portugal team that was without Cristiano Ronaldo for much of the game. Experience, or lack thereof, played a role in that defeat, but it will only serve to strengthen the team. Of the squad taken to Euro 2016 in France, ten to 12 of them will likely be in the team for the 2018 World Cup, bringing heaps of tournament experience with them. In fact, Didier Deschamps even took France – who were in the middle of a transition period – to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, losing to eventual champions Germany.
Packed with world-class talents all over the starting eleven and on the bench, France has the majority of its star players enjoying first-team football at top-flight football clubs and gaining more experience with each passing week. France will be ready for the 2018 World Cup, and they will be a force to be reckoned with.