After a last weekend in club, the vice-champions of the world have put their suitcases in the Château des Yvelines, where three novices landed with their eyes wide open: Brice Samba, Khéphren Thuram and Jean-Clair Todibo, last minute guest after the injury of Wesley Fofana, Saturday with Chelsea.

The Nice defender, never called up before, joined the Blues rejuvenated by the end of international career of a quartet with 370 cumulative caps: Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema.

For Didier Deschamps, it is now urgent to turn the page of the World Cup, completed in a frustrating World Cup final against Argentina on penalties, with the group of players present.

The World Cup, "it's behind", evacuated the coach Monday in a press conference. "We have to find reality, make a lot of efforts to achieve our goal", the current group must be "fixed" on the Euro in Germany, "even obsessed" by the objective of qualification.

The boss of Les Bleus, 2018 world champions and 2022 world vice-champions, nevertheless engages in a new qualifying campaign without several relays, neo-retirees with voices that carried hard in the dressing room.

Defender Theo Hernandez and striker Olivier Giroud join the Blues squad in Clairefontaine, March 20, 2023 © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

From now on, the torch is in the hands of the "old" Benjamin Pavard, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappé, the only players among the twenty-three to have reached the thirty-five caps mark.

Suspense around the captaincy

And since the Blues no longer have a captain (Lloris), nor a vice-captain (Varane), the question occupied a large part of the press conference of return, Monday.

"I will use these first few days to discuss it with the players concerned. (...) You will know a little more on Thursday on the eve of the match" against the Netherlands, Friday (20:45) in Saint-Denis at the launch of qualifying, tried to evacuate Deschamps.

The multiple reminders ended up making the technician smile. "It's going to become torture!" he joked. "I know it's not trivial to be captain of the France team," but it's not a "sensitive" subject either, he said.

Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps during a press briefing at the Clairefontaine football centre, on March 20, 2023 © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

In the meantime, the former captain of the 1998 world champions has drawn up a portrait of robots precise enough to further tighten the group of favorites: "legitimacy" as the main criterion, which involves "technical leadership, mental leadership and state of mind".

Griezmann and Mbappé seem to tick all the boxes, with a clear advantage for the second, with respected speech and driving talent, as proved by his last outing in the blue jersey at the World Cup against Argentina (three goals scored and a successful penalty shootout).

Maignan N.1

Behind the Paris SG striker, a new talented generation intends to become permanently embedded in the selection. His strength? She launched her career with experienced tutors and experienced the very high level very quickly, with a World Cup final at the key.

"Just look at the team that finishes the last game (against Argentina). There were not many selections, "says the coach. "We can't replace people who have lined up ten years, it will take time. But that doesn't mean that those who had less have already taken up space."

Power now resides partly in the hands of Eduardo Camavinga (20), Ibrahima Konaté, Aurélien Tchouaméni (23), Jules Koundé, Randal Kolo Muani (24), Theo Hernandez and Marcus Thuram (25), joined in Clairefontaine by his younger brother Khéphren, 21.

French goalkeeper Mike Maignan warms up before facing Austria at the Stade de France, September 22, 2022 © FRANCK FIFE / AFP/Archives

In the French cage, Mike Maignan (27 years old, 5 caps) will ensure the succession of the duo Lloris-Mandanda who has raged for nearly fifteen years.

Behind the AC Milan goalkeeper, "there will be a hierarchy" between Alphonse Areola and Brice Samba, the other goalkeepers called, but Deschamps did not say more on Monday. "This involves discussions with the three guards," he cut short.

© 2023 AFP