France’s League of Nations campaign ended with a 2-0 thrashing against Denmark on Sunday. Kasper Dolberg and Andreas Skov Olsen scored first-half goals at Parken in Copenhagen, earning all three points for Kasper Hulmand’s men.
However, this was not enough for Les Bleus to finish bottom of the group, with Croatia’s 3–1 victory over Austria confirming the top spot ahead of the Danes. Now Didier Deschamps should consider having his World Cup team travel to Qatar later this year, based on a 2-0 home win against the Austrians and a 2-0 defeat in Scandinavia.
So what did the French tactician take away from this latest international break without a few key players?
Experience is vital
Deschamps’ France has always been built on team chemistry, not just on picking the most talented players available every time. This sometimes required discipline to keep the team from getting undesired in order to prevent disagreements.
However, the appearance, allegations against the French Football Federation and Kylian Mbappé’s recent move to control image rights have rocked the boat. Now it looks like Deschamps needs to get back to basics to get this French side to shoot again.
3 – Three players born in the 21st century who will enter the France national team 🇫🇷, today in the starting lineup (Camavinga, Saliba, Badiaxile), only Spain started the game with so many players born in 2001 or later in the UEFA Nations League A. Youth 👶. https://t.co/TkKoqRdboe
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) September 25, 2022
Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, two campaign veterans under the former captain who won the 1998 and 2018 World Cups, were two of the most compelling performers of this international period. With the return of captain Hugo Lloris, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, as well as Pogba himself, this experience will be more important than ever, despite the emergence of so many new talents.
“I wouldn’t call it a disaster, we also had chances.” Deschamps said after the match. “However, when important ingredients are missing, the system doesn’t really matter. It was a young French team with no high level experience. There is nothing to worry about as the returning players are mostly experienced internationals.”
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar is a hugely influential figure for the club and the country, and this was highlighted with Les Bleus in a dispute over the use of player image rights. Mbappe is now arguably France’s best player, and not necessarily because of his recent actions on the pitch that go against Deschamps’ former meritocracy.
Perhaps Mbappe needs to serve the team more, as the 2018 vintage did, in order to succeed in Russia. If not, then France risks losing in Qatar, and Denmark will show that it will make life difficult in Group D.
The wind of change
Another possibility is that now is the time for Deschamps to step aside to let someone else oversee the next generation of French talent. Zinedine Zidane seems like the most likely candidate, and the growing need to use new faces could be the beginning of the end for Deschamps’ previously successful approach.
Does he have the strength to go through future European and World Championships with these new talents? It seems increasingly unlikely, making this potentially last Deschamps international tournament with a time of change finally for world champions.