Following United at the World Cup – France

Manchester United fans may not necessarily be keeping their eyes peeled on the progress of the French, considering the only United representative among their ranks is Patrice Evra.

However, there may be some interesting personnel to keep tabs on, namely controversial ex-red Paul Pogba, whose story at Old Trafford may not firmly have ‘The End’ stamped on it. Antoine Griezmann is another exciting prospect, who the reds have seen first-hand in last year’s Champions League with Real Sociedad.

I got the French perspective of their chances in Brazil, by catching up with Tom Coast, French by nature who reports on the happenings in Ligue 1 for Sports Witness and blogs and podcasts for the United blog Can They Score.

What are your thoughts on the squad? Any surprises or notable absentees? I’m guessing Nasri.

As Deschamps has repeated many times, this squad is his. This squad isn’t comprised of the 23 best French players in the world, but of the 23 players he feels will work best together.

Nasri’s exclusion didn’t really come as a surprise. After the season he has had, you would expect him to have been picked, but the problem with Nasri is that he doesn’t like being benched. With Deschamps seemingly preferring to use Mathieu Valbuena, this would mean having an unhappy Nasri in the squad, and no one wants that. The other notable omission was Clichy. With Pellegrini seemingly preferring to play Kolarov on the left-hand side, I can understand why Deschamps chose Digne. Similarly to the Luke Shaw situation, Deschamps has preferred to pick one experienced player and one younger one, who will benefit from the experience.

Paddy Evra has caused controversy in the past, has he got some making up to do, is he first choice ahead of Digne? Will this be his swansong, last hurrah for Les Bleus?

Evra is one of 5 remaining players who were part of the 2010 squad that caused so much controversy. Yes, he had an argument with one of the coaches and yes, he was the spokesperson for that group, but all that is in the past. As you can see, the squad chosen 4 years down the line has 18 new faces in it. This squad needs a leader, and we all know that’s exactly what Patrice is. As mentioned previously, I think that the Evra/Digne situation is similar to the one in the England squad with Baines and Luke Shaw. One is chosen to start and the other is there merely for the experience, but capable of filling in if need be. We all know of his proneness to get stranded further up the pitch and there will come a time when Deschamps decides he is too much of a liability meaning this will, and undoubtedly should, be Patrice Evra’s last big competition for France. Who knows where he will be in 2 years time? With his game declining as it currently is, I can’t see him lasting at the top level until 2016.

How far, realistically, do you see Deschamps’ men going?

If all goes to plan and France top their group and Argentina top theirs, France should meet Bosnia in the last round of 16. As underrated as Bosnia are, I feel that they won’t have enough in them to beat the France team assembled by Deschamps. Obviously, we know that anything can happen in the World Cup, but France should reach the quarter-finals where, again, if all goes as expected, they will meet Germany. That’s where I expect them to stumble. Everyone is aware of the ability in Löw’s squad and some even have them as 2nd favourites behind the home team. I hope that France can pull something out of the bag, but I worry that, ultimately, Germany will be too strong for France.

At the end of the day, France aren’t expecting any miracles from their national team. Making it out of the group stage would be an improvement on 2010 and a drama-free World Cup is all we ask for. Then again, no one had us down as finalists in 2006.

Is there anyone we should be looking out for? Should LVG be looking at anyone in particular? The standouts will be Griezmann and Pogba surely?

The obvious answer here is Griezmann. Given his first cap recently, he impressed greatly during the 4-0 thrashing of Norway and many are already talking about him dethroning Ribéry as the starting left winger for the World Cup. For a team desperately lacking quality wingers, Griezmann is the one LVG should be looking at. His release clause is €30m and, for a winger capable of scoring 10+ goals a season (he scored 16 this year), many would consider that a bargain. As for Pogba, he has displayed his class time and time again for Juventus and is starting to do so for France. I strongly believe that he will be one of the stars of the World Cup.

Unfortunately for the hipsters out there, this squad isn’t one blessed with unknown wonderkids. The only player some might not know a lot about is Clément Grenier. Linked with a move away from Lyon this summer, the young midfielder, also capable of playing further up the pitch, has an eye for a pass and is very good at taking set-pieces. Unfortunately, picked as cover for the Cabaye/Matuidi/Pogba midfield, there is a strong possibility that he’ll only come on briefly at the end of games, but he is only 23 and still has plenty of time to play in big tournaments in the future.

Our thanks go to Tom, who you can follow on Twitter – @sardinetrawler

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