Can Paul Pogba dominate for France or will Antoine Griezmann steal his shine?
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Russia World Cup 2018 countdown—3 DAYS
With less than a week to go until the start of the World Cup, anticipation is starting to reach fever pitch. France, who are positively oozing with talent from many of Europe’s biggest club’s. But how will Didier Deschamps fit them all in one team? Can Paul Pogba finally step up? And will any of their group opponents spring a surprise…
Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding France is which Pogba will turn up: the frustrating passenger that annoyed Jose Mourinho so much last season, or the dynamic, powerful and decisive version that convinced Manchester United to spend 89m pounds in the first place?
He has increasingly been accused of not doing enough for both club and country, which produced boos and whistles in a recent friendly against Italy. Teammate Antoine Griezmann jumped to his defence afterwards, saying: ‘You’re used to him scoring. We don’t expect that from him, only that he rotates the ball and plays for the team.’ It could be that Pogba plays a rather more selfless and unspectacular role for the side, allowing Griezmann and other attackers to flourish. They are the two players the rest of the squad look to, and the Atletico striker’s form in front of goal will be decisive – and, perhaps, headline stealing.
Favourites France were not entirely convincing en route to Russia, finishing just 4 points ahead of Sweden and the Netherlands and dropping points against relative minnows Belarus and Luxembourg. Nevertheless, they are the standout team in Group C.
Both Australia and Denmark required playoffs to qualify for the World Cup; the former finished third behind Japan and Saudi Arabia in Asian qualifying, while the latter squeezed past Ireland after finishing behind Poland in the groups. Peru clinched the fifth and final CONMEBOL spot.
Unsurprisingly, with so many talented players to choose from, Deschamps still has a few selection dilemmas going into the World Cup.
At full-back, Benjamin Mendy missed most of the season through injury, while in midfield, Blaise Matuidi faces competition from Corentin Tolisso and Steven Nzonzi. In attack, Les Bleus have even more options to consider.
Assuming Kylian Mbappe and Griezmann are locked in, that leaves five genuinely excellent players vying for one spot. Ousmane Dembele and Nabil Fekir are the standouts and Deschamps’ caution may just favour the Lyon man.
WHO SHOULD FRANCE FEAR?
Denmark are a functional but largely unremarkable side, though they do have one outstanding talent: Christian Eriksen. The Tottenham playmaker may set up others at Spurs, but for his national team he is the de facto match-winner and talisman, always capable of moments of individual brilliance (he scored 11 times in qualifying). Peru could also cause big problems. They play spellbinding football at times and have not lost since defeat to Brazil in November 2016. Underestimate them at your peril.
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