by Tom Lees - 26th March 2016
Didier Deschamps lifted the World Cup as a player on home soil in 1998, now he looks to repeat the feat as a manager.
With the 2016 European Championships now just a few months away, here at FanFormation, we will be taking a close look at each Nation competing and how they fare once the big event in France kicks off. As part of our pre-tournament preview, we will be going through each Country and highlighting three of the youngsters, on the fringes of selection, who will be hoping to make their Nations final squad.
Now we focus on the host nation France, one of the major favourites to win the tournament. A squad packed with talent, the expectations are high and they’ll be hoping to make the most of home advantage, just as they did in the 1998 World Cup.
The French squad is packed with talent in seemingly every position and quite rightly they are seen as one of the favourites for the Championships along with Spain and World Champions Germany. Didier Deschamps has not had a smooth ride in preparations for the tournament however, it is never ideal playing only friendly fixtures especially when one of those games was the target of a terrorist attack. He could have also done without the high profile personal incident involving players Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema, which could see both names left out of the selection process.
The squad is still packed with talent though and there are some fine young players who feature regularly in the squad. Left back Lucas Digne has returned to his finest form since moving to AS Roma and he’ll be pushing for a starting place in the tournament. So too will exciting pacey forward Anthony Martial, who has been a sensation since joining Manchester United despite the clubs indifferent form. Then in Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane, the French have two of the elite young players in World football who could represent any side in the game. All of these players will be expected to make the finals squad, barring injury or incident, and could go on to have a big impact.
Aside from these names, who are the young stars on the fringes of selection that could feature in Didier Deschamps final squad.
Adrien Rabiot is a midfielder that always gets mentioned when Europe’s major clubs are shopping during the transfer window, but has seemingly decided that his future lays with French champions Paris Saint-Germain. Rabiot began his professional career in Paris, shining brightly at Camp des Loges before signing his first contract in 2012 and going on to make his debut later that year. A loan move to Toulouse followed in 2013 where he gained great experience in Ligue 1, before returning to Paris a better player. Intermittent appearances in the PSG first team followed over the next couple of seasons, and the player’s attitude came under critique on a number of occasions by his manager. This was not always helped by his demands for first team football and transfer speculation surrounding him, as 2015 drew to a close though these problems subsided, Rabiot began to feature more in first team affairs and his performances kept him in the team.
As a regular feature in the Paris Saint-Germain midfield now, both domestically and in Europe, Adrien Rabiot will be slightly disappointed that he is yet to feature for the senior French national team. The classy, elegant midfield talent has taken a few years to establish himself at club level, but has now gone from bit part player with potential to an important member of the team that dominated Ligue 1 again this term. Comfortable in possession and oozing class, Rabiot can sit in midfield and dictate play ahead of him or join attacks with a clinical eye for goal when required. Strong in the tackle, great vision and ability to pick a pass, able to dribble past his opponents with ease and hit the target clinically, Rabiot has all the attributes needed to become a World star. Already a big performer for the Under 21 team, it is inevitable that he will become a regular feature in the France squad in the future, he’ll be desperate for that future to come around quick enough for this summer’s tournament.
Teenage forward Kingsley Coman has garnered quite the cv in his young career having already represented Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich at club level. He has won the league and cup double in Italy, appeared in a Champions League final and made his senior debut for his nation all before turning 20 years of age. Not a bad achievement for a player with less than 40 top flight league appearances to his name thus far.
Coman began his professional career at Paris Saint-Germain, becoming the clubs youngest ever player when making his debut in February 2013, aged only 16. He would only make 3 substitute appearances for the Parisians before his contract expired in July 2014, where the forward moved to Italian giants Juventus on a permanent deal. It was a surprising move for the youngster to make as he seemingly still had much to learn, but during his time in Turin Coman featured for the club a number of times in what turned out to be a historical season for them. Then in the summer of 2015 German giants Bayern Munich secured the services of Coman on a two-year loan with an option to buy, another surprising transfer for the youngster but he would surprise everyone with the level of impact he would have in Munich. A regular in the first team both domestically and in Europe, Coman has become a teenage superstar and forced his way from the national youth sides to a fully-fledged French international, making his debut against Germany in a match at the centre of the Paris terror attacks.
Pacey, dynamic and devastating, Coman is a terrific impact player with the ability to produce something out of nothing. High in energy, he can be a constant threat to the opposition defences. He has an ability to dribble at pace and find great attacking areas, also he has shown in recent months that his crossing ability is a major asset for any side. There is still a little rawness in his play, with his general passing and composure in front of goal but this is an area he can work on with greater game exposure. It’s his ability to be an impact player that can see Coman make the European Championship squad for France, the ability to make a difference in tight games by providing the unexpected. As the season draws to a close at Bayern Munich and he is at the centre of some of the biggest fixtures in Europe, Coman’s stock can rise and he can virtually guarantee his inclusion in Deschamps final squad.
Young goalkeeper Alphonse Aréola has represented France at every youth level while learning his craft at his club Paris Saint-Germain. His calm, composed displays at younger level had him earmarked as a potential star of the future, that and his impressive shot stopping abilities. Aréola became a national star with his heroics in the Under 20 World Cup triumph of 2013, saving two penalties in the tournament final shoot-out victory over Uruguay. Born in Paris, Aréola is also still eligible to represent the Philippines as both his parents are of Filipino heritage, but it is expected that he only has eyes on playing for France.
Although yet to break into the PSG first team, Aréola has enjoyed successful loan spells over the past three seasons and gained valuable first team experience. Firstly, in Ligue 2 with RC Lens, then moving up to Ligue 1 where he was hugely impressive with SC Bastia. This season the young stopper has spent his time in Spain with La Liga side Villarreal, where under intense pressure he established himself as the number one goalkeeping selection. This propelled him into the plans of French coach Didier Deschamps, and he was called up to the squad for the friendly fixtures on October 2015 although he wasn’t given his senior debut. As we approach the end of the season it looks set to be an important summer for Aréola, he will be hoping to take over the goalkeeping responsibilities for Paris Saint-Germain or settle his future elsewhere. Also Internationally he’ll be hoping to get the nod as the third choice keeper for the European Championships and possibly his first cap in the warm up fixtures that precede it.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE
Athletic Bilbao centre back Aymeric Laporte has proven to a player of tremendous talent, but his form at club level has perhaps not been all that he would have hoped as of late. He will no doubt go on to be a big player for France in the future but maybe this tournament is coming along at the wrong time. His cause has been helped by the unfortunate injury to Kurt Zouma though who looked set to make the squad, Samuel Umtiti will be of interest too if Zouma’s absence does create a gap in the defensive selection. Also Layvin Kurzawa of Paris Saint-Germain will remain hopeful of a call up as a left back option, but competition for places in that area is particularly strong and it’ll be a surprise if he makes the list.
In attacking areas France are blessed with some of the finest youngsters around, in recent months both Paul-Georges Ntep and Nabil Fekir have been called upon by the national team, but their inclusion this summer would be a bit of a surprise. Instead Deschamps may look to some new exciting youngsters and Thomas Lemar of Monaco will be eager for a chance to impress at the highest level. M’Baye Niang of Milan is a forward that has seemingly been in the frame for years but is still in his youth, however a recent accident has cost him some valuable playing time just as he was hitting top form and it could prevent his chance. Instead Maxwel Cornet of Lyon, and Ousmane Dembélé of Rennais could get the call. Both are pacey and exciting, scoring goals for their clubs and attracting interest from around Europe. Cornet is a little more experienced but Dembélé has recently emerged as one of the wonderkids of World football. Either player could make the squad this summer with continued form, as the events involving Benzema have created an opportunity for others.
That was our look at the young players hoping to represent France this summer in their home tournament. Do you think any of these will make the final selection? Let us know in the comments section below.
The hosts France are drawn in Group A alongside Romania, Albania and Switzerland. They will be big favourites to qualify in top spot and will look to make a strong start in the opening tournament fixture against the Romanians on the 10th June at the Stade de France. Expectations will be high and they’ll hope to go all the way to the final, they have the talent to do so, they will need luck and team unity to push them towards glory though.