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French fringe players may face Socceroos

With several stars injured France may turn to fringe players against Australia but such is the depth of Didier Deschamps’ squad they have plenty of pedigree.

November 21, 2022
21 November 2022

France’s World Cup squad has been decimated by injuries to star players like Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. While the absences are a big blow for the defending champion, they open the door for a new generation of players to shine in Qatar.

Players like midfielders Eduardo Camavinga and central defender Ibrahima Konate, who have six international appearances between them, now have more of a chance of starting France’s opening match against Australia in Group D on Tuesday.

“If the coach selects us we’ll want to show what we can do and bring a breath of fresh air. It’s a childhood dream and I’m really looking forward to the Australia game,” said Camavinga.

The 20-year-old won the Spanish league title and the Champions League last season with Real Madrid alongside Benzema, the Ballon d’Or winner who was ruled out of the tournament after tearing a left thigh muscle in training on Saturday.

“It wasn’t a great night for us when we found out Karim was out,” Camavinga said. “He contacted me by text message, and he was a bit down.”

Konate made his international debut in June and has played twice for France.

“It was quite hard for us to take,” the 23-year-old Liverpool defender said. “I’m really sad for those who are injured, I think they could have done very well for us.”

But Konate echoed Camavinga’s sentiment that it also opens up new opportunities for reserve players.

“I’m part of the younger generation, we’re lucky that we can show what we can do. This is what happens in football, so we have to look forward rather than back,” he said.

Camavinga was involved in a training-ground tackle that injured Christopher Nkunku on Tuesday evening. Nkunku hurt his left knee and had to pull out of the World Cup squad.

The long injury list — coupled with France’s loss of its Nations League title — has increased speculation that Les Bleus could be a weakening force.

“If other teams think we’re less of a proposition, then that’s their problem,” Camavinga said. “I don’t really pay attention to what other people say about us.”

No team has successfully defended its World Cup title since Brazil in 1962.

France coach Didier Deschamps is also sweating on the fitness of central defender Raphael Varane — who has not played since sustaining a hamstring injury with Manchester United on October 11.

Varane was crucial to France’s success when it won the World Cup in Russia four years ago, and has played all of his 87 international games under Deschamps. Presnel Kimpembe, who is Varane’s usual partner in central defence, is also out injured.

If Varane is not ready to face Australia, then Konate could get a start alongside either William Saliba, who plays for Arsenal, or Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano.

“There’s a lot of competition in this position,” Konate said.

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