World Cup: Who will start in midfield for France following Pogba and Kante injuries?


Four years ago, on a rainy evening in Moscow, France had their crowning moment. Goals from Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and a young wonderkid named Kylian Mbappe, as well as a Mario Mandzukic’s own goal, secured a 4-2 victory over Croatia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. This moment marked the second time that Les Bleus had lifted the famous gold trophy following victory on home soil 20 years prior.

In the build-up to the upcoming tournament in Qatar, online bookmakers such as FanDuel, who are offering free bets on the World Cup, had made Didier Deschamps’ side one of the favorites for glory once again. If France were to go all the way in the Arabian Gulf State, they would be the first team since Pele’s Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to with the tournament back-to-back.

But since that glorious evening in the Russian capital, it has been anything but plain sailing for the reigning champions. Last summer they were stunned by Switzerland in the second round of the European Championships, throwing away a two-goal lead in the final ten minutes to lose on penalties in Bucharest. And to make matters worse, it was their starboy Mbappe who missed the deciding spot kick.

They would bounce back from that with victory in the UEFA Nations League. But in this year’s Nations League campaign, things couldn’t have gone much worse. Defeats home and away to Denmark, as well as a loss at home to Croatia, consigned the French to third place in their group of four, surviving relegation by just one point. And if anyone thought their misery was at an end, think again… 


Key men crocked 

A crucial part of the outfit’s success in Russia four years ago was the midfield pivot of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. As we all know, Pogba’s form at club level in recent years has been inconsistent at best, which forced Manchester United to part services with the powerful midfielder in the summer. His return to Turin and former club Juventus was meant to be a fresh start for the 29-year-old, but Pogba hasn’t featured for the Bianconeri since putting pen to paper on a four-year deal. 

Kante, by contrast, has been crucial to Chelsea’s success in recent years. The former Leicester City man has been almost ever-present for his club, amassing 262 appearances in all competitions during his six years at Stamford Bridge. During that time he has won the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. But during the 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur – which was just the second game of the season – the 31-year-old suffered a hamstring injury and has been out of action ever since. 

As the pair have both been ruled out of this winter’s showdown in the desert, who are the contenders to start in France’s opening fixture against Australia on November 22nd? 

Eduardo Camavinga 

The world has known the talent of Eduardo Camavinga ever since he broke into the Rennes team at just 17 years of age. Camavinga has since taken his game to another level after leaving the French side for Real Madrid last summer. The €31m transfer fee seemed like a bargain at the time, and the deal has certainly proved valuable over the last 18 months.

Last season was a remarkable one at the Bernabeu, with Los Blancos winning La Liga as well as defeating Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool to lift their 14th UEFA Champions League crown. Carlo Ancelotti took his time introducing his new French midfielder to the starting eleven, preferring the experienced trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro.

As such, Camavinga had to settle for just 16 starts in all competitions. 

But this season, the central midfielder has seen more game time thanks to the void left by Casemiro, who departed the Spanish capital in a €70m move to Manchester United. Camavinga already has seven starts under his belt this term and also started for France in their recent defeat in Copenhagen. 

Admittedly, Didier Deschamps would probably prefer more experience in his midfield engine room. Camavinga will have just turned 20 years old some 12 days before France’s curtain raiser in Al Wakrah but, with options looking slim, it seems that the Real Madrid man could be the one set to benefit from the injuries of his more experienced teammates. Is this Camavinga’s time to really prove he is world level?


Aurélien Tchouaméni

Real Madrid added to their young French contingent in the summer when they brought in Aurélien Tchouaméni from AS Monaco in an €80m deal. The former Bordeaux youngster is more experienced than the aforementioned Camavinga. The 22-year-old missed just five games last term and even captained the 2017 Ligue 1 winners on two occasions. 

During his two-and-a-half years in the Principality, Tchouaméni racked up 95 appearances and became a key man for the Monégasques. During his two full campaigns at the Stade Louis II, they secured back-to-back third-place finishes in the French top flight, sealing a spot in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round. Tchouaméni’s midfield dynamism was a key ingredient to the success under firstly Niko Kovač, and then Philippe Clement, and that prompted Don Carlo to fork out an eye-watering sum of money for his signature. In the opening few months of his Real Madrid career, he has really hit the ground running. 

Unlike his younger teammate, who struggled for game time during his maiden campaign with the Spanish champions, Tchouaméni has started all but three La Liga games this season, and he has been all but ever-present in the Champions League as well.  The former Monaco man may have been included in the starting line-up in Qatar regardless of whether Pogba and Kante were fit and firing. With their injuries, he is sure to start and may do so next to his Real Madrid teammate. The French have a midfield duo that could dominate international football for years to come, and Qatar 2022 could be the start of it.

World Cup: Who will start in midfield for France following Pogba and Kante injuries?

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