They say individual brilliance can only get you so far in a tournament like a World Cup, but ask the likes of Pele or Diego Maradona and they will tell you differently. The current France side doesn't possess a player of the caliber of the aforementioned legends, but the fans back home will take heart from the fact that Les Blues are taking one of the most talented bunch of young players to Russia and they have all the wherewithal to take the world by storm.
Over the last couple of years, the French youngsters have changed the horizon of club football by making big-money moves across Europe and clubs wouldn't have shelled out such eye-watering sums if these young guns wouldn't have been good. Still, the one thing that could hold this team back could be their inability to click together and if coach Didier Deschamps manages to find the right balance early on, then stopping them from getting to the business end of the tournament will become a big task. The reason why Deschamps will be ever so crucial to the current French national team is because he was the skipper of the team that lifted the World Cup at home. He knows all about leading a side to victory but most importantly, he has the respect of the dressing room, for whom the players are willing to give everything on the pitch.
France won their only World Cup in 1998, when they had a certain Zinedine Zidane in their ranks to propel them to glory in front of home fans. He seemed like a man possessed throughout the course of one-month long tournament and whichever team came in his path, felt the wrath of arguably the greatest midfielder ever to grace the beautiful game. Ask Brazil and players like Ronaldo, Rivaldo & Roberto Carlos will swear by you that the French juggernaut reached its peak when the two teams clashed in the final at the Stade de France. The current crop of players will look to take inspiration from that legendary team and leave a legacy of their own when they take to the field in Russia.
On paper, France have one of the strongest participating squads at the tournament. In skipper Hugo Lloris, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he will have the likes of Djibril Sidibe, Rafael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Bernard Mendy in front of him, marshaling the defense. The likes of Varane and Umtiti play for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively and the duo have all the experience in the world of playing against some of the best attackers who are plying their trade in Europe.
France's mid-field consists of the likes of Paul Pogba, Corentin Tolisso, Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante — all of the quartet ply their trade at big European clubs.
However, it is their attack that is the talk of the town and it is bound to give happy headache to coach Deschamps. Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, Thomas Lemar and Flavian Thauvin combine to make up arguably one of the most dangerous strike-forces at the World Cup. If France are to play 4-3-3, then Griezmann, Mbappe and Dembele will be expected to run riot — as they did during the qualifiers. Giroud may have not lit up the Premier League with his goals, but somehow, he always produces the goods when he dons the French jersey, and therefore will play an important role.
Lace of experience of playing at the biggest stage may hurt France in their bid for glory in Russia. Only six players from the 23-man squad have played in a world cup before and that could weigh them down.
Although the team is very talented and almost each individual is capable of winning the match on his own, as a unit, the team still looks suspect and that is one weakness that the opposition will look to exploit the most.
While critics will say that this French side is still not ready to lift the title and they will be more than equipped to do so at the next world cup, considering their age, the young Frenchmen are fearless, as they have shown at club level. So the opportunity is there for them to stun the world with their performance and show everyone that if you are capable enough, then you are old enough!
Not to forget a chance for coach Deschamps to enter the history books as he is chasing a milestone of his own. So far, only Mario Zagallo (Brazil) and Franz Beckenbauer (Germany) have managed to win the World Cup both as a player and coach and there, the chance for the French coach is there to write his name in history books as well.
In the past, the French players have been guilty of trying too hard and going for swagger over simplicity and if France are to do well in Russia, Deschamps will have to curb this attitude of his young stars. The likes of Pogba, Mbappe and Dembele have been time and again accused of being too flashy — especially the Manchester United star, who was even booed by his own supporters during a friendly recently. A young team like France needs a leader in the team and the likes of Lloris and Matuidi will have to take up that role or the French campaign could implode if the inexperience players are not reigned in from the start.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain)
Defenders: Benjamin Pavard (VfB Stuttgart), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibé (Monaco), Lucas Hernández (Atlético Madrid), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N'zonzi (Sevilla)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)