The 2022 World Cup in Qatar presents France the opportunity to do what no national side has done since Brazil in 1962: retain the World Cup. However, recent history is stacked against Le Bleu, and their recent form suggests they’re likely to follow on the curse of previous winners.
Since the 2002 World Cup, only Brazil have progressed past the group stages as holders, with the three previous winners Germany, Spain and Italy all falling at the first hurdle.
The French squad simply have too much strength in depth for a group-stage exit to be fathomable, however, recent results in the build-up to the tournament in Qatar, has made that outcome more conceivable. Not to mention the manner of their Euro 2020 exit, losing on penalties to Switzerland in the Round of 16, with star player Kylian Mbappe missing the decisive spot-kick.
One area of the squad Didier Deschamps lacks options in is midfield, with the ever-trusted duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante both ruled out of the tournament through injury. Furthermore, defender Raphael Varane is still recovering from a knock that has seen him miss the last few Man United fixtures.
Le Bleu head into the World Cup off the back of some poor form, only winning one of their last six games, and three of their eight fixtures in 2022, with those victories coming against Ivory Coast, South Africa and Austria, respectively. The current World Champions were fortunate not to be relegated to the ‘B League’ of the UEFA Nations League, coming 3rd in a group with Croatia, Denmark and bottom-placed Austria, who finished just a single point below France.
Deschamps also has tactical and personnel issues to solve. Mbappe is likely to play a crucial role if France are to taste success in Qatar, so the manager needs to build a system that would ultimately accommodate the PSG superstar.
Mbappe made it clear that he prefers playing in a two-man strike force where he can move around a focal point. He referred to his connection with Olivier Giroud as the way he likes to play. But this would mean leaving out the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, which is impossible to do, given the form he’s shown over the last few years.
Furthermore, the French national team will have to live with the supposed curse placed on Kylian Mbappe by a witchdoctor at the alleged order of Paul Pogba, as per his brother Mathias.
After Euro 2020, there were murmurings emanating from France that Deschamps was having issues controlling the dressing room. With results clearly not improving since, it is likely that the situation has not gotten any better, especially seeing that most members of the current squad were also a part of the Euro 2020 campaign.
This all paints Deschamps’ objective of retaining the trophy as mission near-impossible. It also suggests that the World Cup-winning manager and player is nearing the end of his tenure in charge of Le Bleu. And it seems as if achieving success in this World Cup might just be his toughest task yet.