Europe 1 with AFP 18:08 p.m., March 28, 2023Well launched in the race for Euro 2024 with two wins in as many matches, the France team has returned to working order after the World Cup final with an already well-established hierarchy, a flourishing captain and young people who are asserting themselves. The Blues had not had such a good start to qualifying for 40 years.
Maignan-Konaté-Upamecano, the new golden triangle of Didier Deschamps' France team? These three are, at least, for a lot in the successes against the Netherlands, Friday (4-0), and in the Republic of Ireland, Monday (1-0). Still substitutes six months ago, Mike Maignan, Ibrahima Konaté and Dayot Upamecano already look like potential starters in this post-World Cup France team.
The international retirements of captain Hugo Lloris and vice-captain Raphael Varane could have left a big void in the French rearguard, but the three players shone at Saint-Denis and Dublin despite their 10 caps average. "With the battle fought on Friday and the trip, to have kept this solidity is important," said coach Didier Deschamps. The Blues had not started a qualifying campaign for a major competition with two victories without conceding a single goal for nearly 40 years and the qualifications for the 1986 World Cup.
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Kolo Muani and Camavinga, hierarchy upset?
At the heart of this first post-World Cup gathering, two young shoots with long teeth stood out: Eduardo Camavinga and Randal Kolo Muani. At only 20 years old, the first seems to have come of age: titular in Dublin at the expense of his club partner Aurélien Tchouaméni, he has impressed with his activity and pressing.
"I wanted to have his technical quality to make the team play, adding the confidence he has and his ability to recover balls," said Deschamps, who had initially summoned the Madrid player as the number 2 left-back. The other big winner of the truce is Randal Kolo Muani. At 24, the Frankfurt striker is full of confidence in Germany, with eight goals and two assists to his tally in 2023.
As a centre-forward against the Netherlands, or even on one side as against the Irish, "Kolo" has established himself as a serious candidate for the eleven-type in the perspective of the Euro, weakening Olivier Giroud (36 years old). "He is in the continuity of what he achieves at the club and with us. He takes up space because of what he has shown in both matches," Deschamps said.
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Mbappé, the armband and the smile
One of the major events of this first training camp of the year was the awarding of the captain's armband to Kylian Mbappé. After his eight goals at the World Cup, the Parisian continued his takeover in March, with enthusiasm visible on and off the pitch. His double against the Netherlands launched the Blues well in their qualifiers, and his much more discreet performance on Monday did not prevent him from displaying a broad smile after the game.
On Benjamin Pavard's goal, he was even the first to fall into the arms of the Bavarian returnee. More than ever, Mbappé asserts himself at 24 years old as the leader of the new wave, this generation that "does not always take the importance of the stakes, which allows him to play the matches at high pressure as if they were ordinary matches", as he described it on Sunday. "The identity of this generation is this desire for greatness, to show that we can do great things," he said.
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Before facing Gibraltar in Faro (Portugal) and Greece in Saint-Denis in June, Deschamps nevertheless has some lines of thought ahead of him. The first concerns the midfield: are the possible returns of N'Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba likely to disrupt the development of the typical team? So far, the trio Antoine Griezmann - Tchouaméni - Adrien Rabiot has convinced, with Camavinga as a luxury alternative.
The other doubt concerns the laterals. Without Lucas Hernandez, seriously injured in Qatar, the left flank is depopulated: Theo Hernandez delivered an insipid and sometimes worrying performance against Ireland and Camavinga can not remain a sustainable option in this position that is not his. On the right, the winning return of Pavard did not mask some deficiencies in the offensive contribution, and the number 1 of the position, Jules Koundé, is not a full-back either...