manager Didier Deschamps is not a worrier. It’s not part of his personality; he’s more of a pragmatic and positive guy, always trying to look on the bright side of things. However, even he must be wondering what the heck is going on right now?
Two months before the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where his team will try to become the first reigning champion to retain their title sincein 1962, France are going through turmoil like never before. Even when judged against French footballing history, which has seen plenty of tasteless stories in the past, this is unprecedented. Everything that could be going wrong right now is going wrong, and there are so many sources of turbulence happening at the same time.
First of all, there’s the atmosphere around the team. On Monday,continued his 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 agreement under pressure from Mbappe, who had about it in March, but nothing was done. So Mbappe announced on Monday that he was refusing to take part in Tuesday’s activities and photoshoots with national team sponsors.
The panic was so intense that an emergency meeting between Le Graet, Mbappe,, 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 team’s captains, it exposed the cracks within the “Blue House.”
Le Graet, whose relationship with Deschamps is very strong, is also in the eye of the storm.in France to female employees at the FFF and covering up, or not acting 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, is refusing to step down, but theis also building indirectly around Deschamps and his players. The head coach summed it up himself last week: “The atmosphere is heavy.”
The past few weeks have also seen stories aboutsurfacing in the media. The midfielder is currently under police protection in Italy after recent revelations about a group of his childhood friends from him. His own brother, Mathias, — all of them known to Paul — after being .
Pogba is out injured with a torn meniscus, but the incident is having a negative impact on him and the France team. His teammates are worried and Deschamps is hoping that his No. 6 will be able toto be fit for the World Cup, but also that he will be able to overcome the trauma of the threats and intimidation he has experienced. No one knows what kind of Pogba will return to Deschamps and France.
There are also a lot of minor injuries piling up within the core of the squad expected to compete in Qatar. Deschamps could field a whole team with the players currently absent, and what a team it would be: Lloris in goal;, , and in defence; a midfield of Pogba, , and ; with and up front. And there would be subs as well.
At least six of these players — Lloris, the Hernandez brothers, Kante, Pogba and Benzema — are in Deschamps’s strongest XI. They are not all out with long-term issues, but their absences are a huge blow considering that France’s upcoming UEFA Nations League games — againston Thursday and in on Sunday — are the last two before they begin their World Cup campaign against on Nov. 22.
It has been a nightmare for the France head coach, who hasn’t seen his players since the last international break in June, whenunexpectedly and Les Bleus were terrible in his absence. (They lost to Denmark and at home, and drew against Austria and Croatia.) France are bottom in their Nations League A Group 1 with two points from four games and can’t face the humiliation of being relegated.
The remaining squad is still elite, of course, with the likes of Mbappe,, , and Varane in training. France also boast impressive depth, with players in top form like , and , as well as promising young talent like , and , who were called up for the first time.
However, even among the players gathered at Clairefontaine, there are concerns, whether it’s in terms of fitness — likebeing at — or confidence ( is struggling to find form with .) Things are tough for Deschamps and for France right now, but like the manager told his players on Monday: the only way is up.