DOHA: Didier Deschamps is likely to keep his usual starting XI for France’s World Cup final against Argentina, although he could make one key change in central defense as the defending champions look to contain the threat posed by Lionel Messi at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday.
Following is France’s possible starting lineup:
Usually a slow starter at big tournaments, Lloris, France’s first choice keeper and captain for over a decade, raises his level dramatically in the knockout phases and is known as one of the world’s best shot stoppers. However, his record in penalty shootouts has been poor, hence France will be eager to avoid the match being decided by spot kicks after 120 minutes of action.
Kounde plays center back in club football with Barcelona, but injuries have forced coach Didier Deschamps to field him at right back, a position he has begun to enjoy in Qatar. Solid defensively, he has yet to bring more going forward, but his overall performance has been more than satisfying.
The team’s vice-captain, the boss of the defense. Varane missed the opening game against Australia with a hamstring problem but has improved steadily since then. His experience and calm demeanor will be key in controlling Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez.
His physical presence is impressive, as well as his ability to bring the ball forward, a key element which helps France excel in quick transitions and counter attacks. He can be rock solid but also error prone, as his performance against England showed, when he could have conceded an early penalty for a foul on Harry Kane.
Played the first game against Australia as Varane was not fit and made a big impression. He was equally impressive in the 1-0 group-stage defeat by Tunisia, the only player at world class level that day. He was given another chance to show his qualities in the semi-final against Morocco as Upamecano was ruled out with illness and he was France’s best field player thanks to his sense of anticipation, which could tempt Deschamps to favour him over Upamecano.
Owes his place in the starting line-up to his brother Lucas suffering a knee injury in the opening group game and has lived up to expectations. He can be dangerous while moving forward and his association with Kylian Mbappe is one of France’s main assets. Scored an early goal against Morocco in the semi-finals.
The renaissance man. After a rough few month at Barcelona, he returned to former club Atletico Madrid short on self-confidence. Deschamps’ decision to play him in midfield turned out to be masterstroke as he has been scintillating in this new role. He is proving to be pivotal in defense and in attack, showing outstanding ability to play between the lines. He is the brains behind France’s run to the final and set up Olivier Giroud for the winner against England with a superb cross from the left flank.
The key man in front of the defense. In an attacking-minded team, his role is one of the most important to keep the balance and he has been doing a great job. His 25-metre goal against England also showed he could be a threat up front as well.
His midfield activity compensates for Mbappe’s lack of defensive work. His pace and dedication have made him one of the pivotal players of the team in Qatar and his absence against Morocco was sorely felt. Can also strike from outside the box.
His dribbling abilities and speed is a defender’s nightmare. After a good start to the tournament, where he also showed tactical discipline in defending on the right flank when needed, Dembele has been fading away, making poor choices. Will need to find his touch again in the final.
Won his place in the starting line-up when Karim Benzema was ruled out injured just before the tournament and he duly delivered, becoming France’s all-time top scorer with 53 goals. He scored the winner against England in the quarterfinals and his alliance with Mbappe is one of Les Bleus’s main strengths. Had a poor game against Morocco so will be keen to step it up in the final.
The absolute star of the team, who scored five goals in his first four games. His devastating pace, ability to dribble in tiny spaces and his powerful strikes make him the man to mark in the French team. He failed to score against England or Morocco, who surrounded Mbappe with half a dozen defenders in the semi-final. The manpower Mbappe attracted in the semis handed Hernandez and substitute Randal Kolo Muani the freedom to score France’s two goals. Whether he is scoring or not, Mbappe is always decisive as he looks to win his second World Cup before his 24th birthday.