French manager Didier Deschamps is no worrier. It is not part of his personality; he is a more pragmatic and positive guy, always trying to look on the bright side of things. However, even he must be wondering what the hell is going on now?
Two months before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where his team will try to become the first reigning champions to retain their title since Brazil in 1962, France is going through turmoil like never before. Even when judged against French football history, which has seen many tasteless stories in the past, this is unprecedented. Everything that could go wrong now is going wrong, and there are so many sources of turbulence happening at once.
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First of all, there is the atmosphere around the team. on monday, Kylian Mbappe continued its fight against the French Football Federation (FFF) over the players’ image rights agreement. The FFF (and its president, Noel Le Graet) first said back in June that it would modify the deal under pressure from Mbappe, who had already complained about it in March, but nothing was done. So Mbappe announced on Monday that he refuses to participate in Tuesday’s activities and photo sessions with national team sponsors.
The panic was so intense that an urgent meeting between Le Graet, Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Hugo Lloris and Deschamps was called, and a solution for the image rights was found. The agreement will be reviewed and modified to give the players more leverage and compensation. But while Mbappe won his battle with the Federation, supported by the captains of the team, it exposed the cracks inside the “Blue House”.
Le Graet, whose relationship with Deschamps is very strong, is also in the eye of the storm. Media reports in France accused him of sending inappropriate text messages to female employees at the FFF and covering up, or failing to act on, numerous incidents within French football over the past several years.
Le Graet, who is 80 years old and still has two years left in his role as FFF president, refuses to step down, but the tension around him also builds indirectly around Deschamps and his players. The head coach himself summed it up last week: “The atmosphere is heavy.”
The past few weeks have also seen stories of Paul Pogba appear in the media. The Juventus midfielder is currently under police protection in Italy following recent revelations about a group of his childhood friends trying to extort money from him. His own brother, Mathias, is being held in prison and awaiting a bail decision with four other men – all of them known to Paul – after being charged with blackmail.
Pogba is injured with a torn meniscus, but the incident has a negative impact on him and the French team. His teammates are worried and Deschamps hopes that his number 6 will be able to return from his knee injury in time to be fit for the World Cup, but also that he will be able to overcome the trauma of the threats and intimidation against him. experienced Nobody knows how Pogba will return to Deschamps and France.
There are also many minor injuries piling up in the core of the squad expected to compete in Qatar. Deschamps could field an entire team with the players currently absent, and what a team it would be: Lloris in goal; Ibrahima Konate, Lucas Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe and Theo Hernandez in defense; pogba midfield, Boubacar Kamara, N’Golo Kante – The Best Of N’Golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot; with Karim Benzema and Kingsley Coman above. And there would also be subordinates.
At least six of these players — Lloris, the Hernandez brothers, Kante, Pogba and Benzema — are in Deschamps’ strongest XI. They are not entirely without long-term problems, but their absences are a huge blow considering France’s next UEFA Nations League games — against Austria on Thursday and in Denmark on Sunday — are the last two before they begin their World Cup campaign. against Australia on November 22.
It has been a nightmare for the French head coach, who has not seen his players since the last international break in June, when his father passed away unexpectedly and blues were terrible in his absence. (They lost to Denmark and Croatia at home, and drew against Austria and Croatia.) France are bottom of their Nations League A Group 1 with two points from four games and cannot face the humiliation of being relegated.
The remaining squad is still elite, of course, with the likes of Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Aurelien Tchouameni, Jules Kounde and Varane in training. France also boast impressive depth, with players in top form such as William Saliba, Mike Maignan and Olivier Giroudas well as promising young talent like Randal Color, Youssouf Fofana and Benoit Badiashilewho were summoned for the first time.
Still, even among the players gathered at Clairefontaine, there are concerns whether it’s fitness — how Antoine Griezmann being stuck playing less than 30 minutes per game at Atletico Madrid — or confidence (Christopher Nkunku struggling to find form with RB Leipzig.) Things are difficult for Deschamps and for France right now, but as the manager told his players on Monday: the only way is up.