France will make the World Cup final against Argentina with a full starting XI, but given the situation with the Camel Virus that has struck the team, we can’t be sure who will start. For now, however, these are the best players in the France squad and the ones who will no doubt cause Messi and his teammates the most problems during Sunday’s final at the Lusail Stadium.
The Atlético Madrid forward/striker/winger/midfielder – whatever on earth he is – has been the revelation of the tournament and is the player of the tournament for many people (including myself). Nobody expected ‘Grizi’ to turn into a player for France that was absolutely everywhere, popping up in both attack and defence, causing problems for the opposition while simultaneously saving the bacon of his teammates.
Griezmann cemented himself as one of football’s great players in 2018 with his performances in France’s World Cup and he might be on his way to doing it again. Back then he was a forward player, propping up Giroud from behind and anchoring the forward line so Mbappé had the freedom to scramble around the pitch uncontrollably like an overly-caffeinated beetle.
This time, there quite simply isn’t a name for what he’s doing: he’s an everything-er, everywhere. If Mbappé gets bogged down by having an entire flashmob marking him then Grizi can step in and help create from the middle or out wide, wherever the space is left. If Tchouaméni gets overrun in midfield by what feels like a stampede of migratory animals, Griezmann steers the herd away or robs the ball himself and launches his own attack north, towards the other end of the pitch. He has been brilliant so far, and maybe he can be the man to take France one step further against Argentina.
Sofyan Amrabat fights for the ball with Antoine Griezmann.KARIM JAAFARAFP
France’s all-time top goalscorer is not on this list for being incredibly handsome, nor is he on here for scoring 4 goals. OK, maybe both of those things are slightly untrue, but Giroud’s talent extends past his goalscoring ability and reaches into the pockets of his teammates, as he grabs their shorts and drags them into positions where they can score thanks to his sublime off-ball movement and incredible capacity to attract defenders.
The AC Milan forward is exceptional at being a huge presence inside the box, and not because he undoubtedly smells like a Greek god. Instead, it is the capacity to score from any given situation that causes defenders to fear him and move closer towards the striker, opening up gaps elsewhere that can be exploited by teammates such as Mbappé and Griezmann.
As well as his off-ball skills, the things he does on the ball are obviously key to how his team wins games. Giroud’s technical ability is an underrated asset of his, and coupled with his movement and spacial awareness, it makes him the perfect companion to play alongside and use as a reference point to link up play in the tight spaces that Les Bleus like to wave their French magic wands.
My slightly surprise inclusion is Theo, Giroud’s teammate at Milan. The left-back has turned into a key member of Didier Deschamps’ France side during this World Cup, and his inclusion was only made possible by the unfortunate injury to his brother, Lucas Hernández. He scored the opening goal against Morocco, but that’s actually not the biggest reason why he’s on this list.
The defender, if you want to give him such a restrictive label, has been crucial to France’s – and especially Kylian Mbappé’s – ability to crush opponents to a pulp in moments of blinding lightning strikes. Theo’s movement off the ball, normally a surging run towards the corner flag, occupies the opposition defender and blocks the wide space off, allowing Kylian Mbappé to float unsuspectingly inside like a feather drifts into a window from a light breeze ona summer’s day, before you realise that an entire family of hawks, eagles and feathery dinosaurs have come crashing through the window and want to eat you. Basically, Theo’s outside runs give Mbappé the signal for the kill.
And then, if he receives the ball in the high-up areas he like to prowl around in, then he can do things like he did against Morocco, getting on the end of some madness to put the ball in the back of the net.
Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 – Semi Final – France v Morocco – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar – December 14, 2022 France’s Theo Hernandez celebrates scoring their first goal with Olivier Giroud REUTERS/Dylan Martinez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYDYLAN MARTINEZREUTERS
Did you think I had forgotten?
Of course, Mbappé is the star in this France side that is looking for the third World Cup gold star on their shirt, and he will more than likely be the difference-maker if anyone is to get through the Argentinian defence. Despite his performances against England and Morocco being on the quieter side, only a fool would rule out the PSG star making an impact in the biggest game in football. Everybody else gets more writing about them, because you already know about Kylian.