March 27, 2023

Didier Deschamps injected new blood into the France team with the summons on Thursday of three novices, including defender Wesley Fofana and midfielder Khéphren Thuram, for the qualifications for Euro-2024 in which the dean Olivier Giroud, 36, will participate.

The new conscripts join the ranks of vice-world champions thanks to the international retirements of Hugo Lloris and Raphaël Varane, captain and vice-captain three months ago in Doha, and Ballon d’Or Karim Benzema, angry with the coach.

They also benefit from the absence of several regulars like Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Ousmane Dembélé or even Christopher Nkunku, all diminished by physical glitches.

Despite these constraints, Deschamps has always had the concern to “prepare the medium term”, he assured the press on Thursday. We must “have answers for the future while maintaining competitiveness, because we will be in tough right away”.

The start of the qualifying campaign for Euro-2024 in Germany, against the Netherlands on March 24 in Saint-Denis and on March 27 against Ireland in Dublin, will therefore be written with three new faces, and in particular that by Brice Samba.

At 28, the Lens porter will finally enter the Château de Clairefontaine on Monday and complete an unprecedented trio with Mike Maignan, new number one in the cage deserted by Lloris, and with Alphonse Areola, a regular on the French bench.

The last rampart of the best defense in Ligue 1 doubled Alban Lafont, younger (24 years old) and who “would also deserve” to be called up, according to Deschamps.

– The Thuram brothers reunited –

Samba will know the joys of the traditional “hazing” in song which newcomers to the Blues must subject themselves to. But he will not feel alone since Wesley Fofana and Khéphren Thuram will also be entitled to it.

Fofana has often come close to the big Blues but multiple injuries have delayed the deadline. His rise to power at Chelsea has finally convinced Deschamps, who has been following him for a long time.

The 24-year-old player joins the dense competition of central defenders alongside Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté and William Saliba.

The sides will devolve to Jules Koundé and Benjamin Pavard, on the right, while the left flank will be occupied by Theo Hernandez and Eduardo Camavinga, midfielder already used in this position by the coach during the World Cup.

The young midfielder Khéphren Thuram will for his part find his older brother Marcus, also listed among this first list of 2023.

The 21-year-old from Nice is certainly benefiting from Pogba and Kanté’s package but he was preferred to the more experienced Mattéo Guendouzi (7 caps), less radiant than before with OM, and Valentin Rongier.

– No choice of captain yet –

The line of attack is the same as at the World Cup, with one exception: the absence of Dembélé reopens the door to Moussa Diaby (23), not retained for Qatar but in a good pass at Leverkusen.

At 36, the eternal Giroud convinced Deschamps to further extend their common history, which is more than a decade long. The top scorer in the history of the Blues, still decisive Monday against Salernitana (1-1) with AC Milan, also benefits from the absence of Benzema, who announced his withdrawal after Qatar.

The Madrilenian may have called the coach a “clown” and a “liar”, but he did not want to put a coin in the controversy machine.

“I had to express myself to say what had happened (concerning the injury and the departure of Benzema at the World Cup, editor’s note). It’s a closed subject, behind, I’m not going to comment again whatever whatever,” cut Deschamps.

The coach was more talkative on the question of the captaincy. He indicated that he had not made his decision but preferred “to have a well-defined choice” of a captain and a vice-captain: “There are some that I consider possible, obviously Kylian is one of them”.

“It will go through discussions with them before I make my decision”, according to Deschamps, because “there is a responsibility in relation to being captain, with slightly greater obligations”.

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