March 26, 2023

The France team, orphaned by pillars like Hugo Lloris, starts a new cycle in March for the start of qualifying for Euro-2024, a window in which young novices hope to rush into Thursday, the day of the list announcement .

Three months after the final lost against Argentina in the World Cup, Didier Deschamps, extended in the meantime until 2026, returns to the scene. The coach unveils Thursday (2:00 p.m.) his first group of the year 2023, necessarily different from the previous one, to receive the Netherlands on March 24 and move to Ireland three days later.

The Blues will indeed take a facelift with the international retirement of historic captain Hugo Lloris, his lining in the cage Steve Mandanda and vice-captain and defensive rock Raphaël Varane, among others.

As usual, the staff has planned to meet to refine their choices, weigh the latest medical feedback and make final decisions.

Once is not custom, the position of goalkeeper should be the subject of the most lively debates.

The number one spot is already reserved for Mike Maignan (27 years old, 5 selections), the doorman of AC Milan, finally rid of his calf injury and designated successor to Lloris. But the identity of his two partners remains to be defined.

– Samba or Lafont? –

Alphonse Areola, present at the World Cup as N.3, holds the rope to join the trio in view of his experience on the tricolor bench and his increasing playing time at West Ham, where the usual holder Lukasz Fabianski is taking care of a facial injury.

The identity of the third man appears more blurred, even if two names emerge. Franck Raviot, the French goalkeeper coach, could give his preference to Brice Samba (28 years old, never called up) or Alban Lafont (24 years old, called up without playing in September), whom he observed during Lens-Nantes there one month old.

Antoine Kombouaré, the coach of Nantes, bet a coin on Thursday on his foal, Lafont, “not because I like him but because I see him every day in training, I see the work he accomplishes, the matches. He is a boy who applies, but there are a lot of them”.

At the other end of the field, the attack line will be built without Karim Benzema, the Ballon d’Or angry with Deschamps, nor Ousmane Dembélé, injured. However, it will remain well stocked with Kylian Mbappé, Kingsley Coman, Randal Kolo Muani or, most certainly, Olivier Giroud. At 36, the indestructible center-forward of AC Milan does not intend to hang up.

Christopher Nkunku, deprived of the World Cup at the last moment, will surely have to postpone his reunion with the Blues due to a new muscle injury, which put him on hold with Leipzig.

– Relapse for Pogba –

More certainly, the 2018 world champion Paul Pogba is forced to draw a line under the next two international meetings. The “Pickaxe”, away from the national jersey for a year, had finally started his season with Juventus when a new injury, to the right thigh, mowed him down.

His former partner N’Golo Kanté has still not returned to competition with Chelsea, which guarantees a summons to midfielders Adrien Rabiot, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga, the latter also being able to occupy the left lane of the defense.

The other globalists Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Jordan Veretout and Mattéo Guendouzi (Marseille) are less certain before the coach’s announcement.

In defense, Deschamps will be deprived of several ammunition since Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez are stuck in the infirmary, from which Ferland Mendy has barely returned.

Shelved after the first match of the World Cup, Munich’s Benjamin Pavard is not offside. “Of course”, Deschamps is still counting on him. “Which player, at some point in his career, has not been questioned?” Said the boss of the Blues this week to the daily Le Parisien.

In central defense, young nuggets hope to make their way through the thick competition. This is the case of Wesley Fofana (22), regular at Chelsea, or Jean-Clair Todibo (23), solid in Nice. “Of course I will be on my phone or in the cafeteria to watch (the announcement of the list) on TV”, admitted Thursday the latter.

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