POTENT LES BLEUS

Fear­some young trio ex­pected to start for France

New Straits Times - - SPORT -

WITH sev­eral top­notch for­wards at his dis­posal, France coach Di­dier Deschamps has tough choices to make ahead of his young team’s World Cup opener against Aus­tralia and the ex­pe­ri­enced Olivier Giroud could find him­self on the bench.

The 31-year-old Chelsea striker, who has scored 31 goals in 74 games for his coun­try, sus­tained a cut on his fore­head in France’s last warm-up match against the United States but has been train­ing with a ban­dage around his head.

Deschamps, how­ever, is ex­pected to leave Giroud out of the start­ing lineup for their first Group C match in Kazan to­mor­row, hav­ing fielded him with the sub­sti­tutes team in train­ing on Wed­nes­day.

Kylian Mbappe, 19, and 21-yearold Ous­mane Dem­bele, who have linked up im­pres­sively dur­ing the build-up matches, should start along with An­toine Griez­mann, 27, to form a fear­some trio.

“We are three play­ers who ap­pre­ci­ate each other. We put our egos on the side,” said Mbappe, who added he was “100 per­cent” af­ter tak­ing a knock on his an­kle at train­ing ear­lier this week.

“There are not a lot of teams who have a bet­ter at­tack­ing lineup than us.”

Should the 23-year-old Corentin Tolisso start in mid­field and Blaise Ma­tu­idi, 31, stays on the bench, it could be the youngest French team to start a World Cup since 1930.

Noth­ing to worry about, says Mbappe.

“It can be a strength. We can bring some care­free­ness, some joie de vivre in a com­pe­ti­tion where pres­sure is al­ways weigh­ing on the squad,” the striker added.

In de­fence, Lu­cas Her­nan­dez and Ben­jamin Pavard, both 22, are likely to start on the flanks af­ter im­pres­sive dis­plays in the warm-up games, in the ab­sence of the in­jured Djib­ril Sidibe.

Sidibe has been suf­fer­ing from a knee in­jury but French fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Noel Le Graet in­di­cated he would not be ruled out of the tour­na­ment.

“I saw all the play­ers to­day and Sidibe was in good health,” Le Graet told a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

France, who were knocked out in the World Cup quar­ter-fi­nals by even­tual cham­pi­ons Ger­many four years ago in Brazil, also take on Peru and Denmark in the group stage.

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