Didier Deschamps, France's manager, is not a worisome person. It's not in his nature; he's more of a pragmatic and positive guy who always tries to see the bright side of things. But even he must be wondering what is going on right now.
France is in turmoil like never before two months before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where his team will attempt to become the first reigning champion to retain its title since Brazil in 1962. Even when compared to French football history, which has seen plenty of tasteless stories, this is unprecedented. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong right now, and there are so many sources of turbulence going on at the same time.
First and foremost, there is the team's atmosphere. Kylian Mbappe continued his battle against the French Football Federation (FFF) over the players' image rights agreement on Monday. The FFF (and its president, Noel Le Graet) first stated in June that it would modify the agreement in response to Mbappe's complaints in March, but nothing was done. As a result, Mbappe announced on Monday that he would not be participating in Tuesday's activities and photoshoots with national team sponsors.
The panic was so intense that an emergency meeting was called between Le Graet, Mbappe, Raphael Varane, Hugo Lloris, and Deschamps, and an image rights solution was found. The agreement will be reviewed and modified in order to provide the players with more leverage and compensation. However, while Mbappe won his battle with the Federation with the support of the team's captains, it exposed flaws within the French squad.
Le Graet, who has a close relationship with Deschamps, is also caught in the crossfire. According to French media reports, he sent inappropriate text messages to female FFF employees and covered up, or did not act on, numerous incidents in French football over the years.
Le Graet, who is 80 years old and still holds the position of FFF president for another two years, is refusing to step down, but the tension around him is also building indirectly around Deschamps and his players. Last week, the head coach summed it up perfectly: “The atmosphere is heavy.”
In recent weeks, there have also been reports about Paul Pogba in the media. Following recent revelations about a group of his childhood friends attempting to extort money from him, the Juventus midfielder is currently under police protection in Italy. Mathias, his own brother, is being held in jail and awaiting a bail decision with four other men, all of whom Paul knows, after being charged with extortion.
Pogba is out with a torn meniscus, but the incident is affecting both him and the France team. His teammates are concerned, and Deschamps is hoping that not only will his No. 6 recover from his knee injury in time for the World Cup, but that he will also be able to overcome the trauma of the threats and intimidation he has faced. Nobody knows what Pogba will bring back to Deschamps and France.
There are also numerous minor injuries among the core of the squad expected to compete in Qatar. Deschamps could field an entire team without the players who are currently unavailable, and what a team it would be: Lloris in goal, Ibrahima Konate, Lucas Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe, and Theo Hernandez in defense, Pogba, Boubacar Kamara, N'Golo Kante, and Adrien Rabiot in midfield, and Karim Benzema and Kingsley Coman up front. Subs would also be present.
At least six of these players are in Deschamps' strongest XI: Lloris, the Hernandez brothers, Kante, Pogba, and Benzema. They are not all out for long, but their absences are significant given that France's next two UEFA Nations League games are against Austria on Thursday and Denmark on Sunday, the final two before they begin their World Cup campaign against Australia on Nov. 22.
It's been a nightmare for France's head coach, who hasn't seen his players since the last international break in June, when his father died unexpectedly and Les Bleus struggled. (At home, they lost to Denmark and Croatia and drew with Austria and Croatia.) France is bottom of Nations League A Group 1 with two points from four games and cannot afford to be relegated.
Of course, the remaining squad is still elite, with Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Aurelien Tchouameni, Jules Kounde, and Varane in training. France also has an impressive depth, with players like William Saliba, Mike Maignan, and Olivier Giroud in top form, as well as promising young talent like Randal Kolo Muani, Youssouf Fofana, and Benoit Badiashile being called up for the first time.
Even among the players gathered at Clairefontaine, there are concerns, whether it's about fitness (Antoine Griezmann is restricted to playing under 30 minutes per game at Atletico Madrid) or confidence (Christopher Nkunku is struggling to find a form with RB Leipzig.) Things are difficult for Deschamps and France at the moment, but as the manager told his players on Monday, the only way is up.
Even though France will always be a leading contender in any football race, there seems to be a lot of questions surrounding the Blue squad and its stability at the moment. Stay tuned as CasinoDaddy will always provide you with the latest football news, and injuries and keep you prepared before the start of the 2022 World Cup Tournament.