World Cup 2014: France Preview - Pogba to carry Les Bleus in Ribery's absence?

France will have to do without their star player in Brazil, but have a few youngsters capable of stepping up to the challenge.

The perception

The 1998 World Cup winners needed the playoffs to make it to Brazil after having to contest top spot with defending champions Spain, the only difference between the two sides being a French loss in Paris. They didn't make easy work of their games with Ukraine, losing 2-0 in Kiev before turning it around at home.

After spectacularly fluffing their lines in South Africa, the man that captained the country to their sole World Cup win, Didier Deschamps, is now tasked with guiding them as manager, and has a much steadier ship than the 2010 group.

The reality

This French side are a stronger outfit than they were this time last year, when they lost big games against Germany, Spain, Brazil and Uruguay. Deschamps has a more settled defence now, while Paul Pogba has emerged as one of the best young midfielders around. Any positivity Les Bleus had has dissipated somewhat following Franck Ribery's injury, though a 2-0 win over the Netherlands in March did arrest a series of poor results against strong teams.


A group of outstanding young players has come through in recent years, many of whom are along for the ride in Brazil. Several of these could catch teams out if they reach their potential this summer, while in Deschamps, they have the only manager in Brazil who won the tournament as a player, which should be of value. 

French football is also enjoying a renaissance after the money pumped into PSG and Monaco, and there are a decent group of players from Ligue 1 in the squad. There are also several players familiar to Premier League fans, with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo lloris captaining a side that will also have men from Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle United and Manchester United among others.


Any side would miss their talisman, and France will be no different now Bayern Munich winger Ribery has been cut from the squad because of injury. On top of that, Deschamps and Manchester City's Samir Nasri didn't manage to patch up differences in time for the former Arsenal player to be included in the squad, depriving France of another top player.

The squad is lacking a group boasting the World Class talent the country had in 1998 and 2006 when they were runners up, with the hope being that several can make the step up in Brazil. 

Key Player

Paul Pogba has been a revelation at Juventus since his move from Manchester United, and would surely now command a transfer fee of £30 million. His powerful, energetic midfield play will likely be a key factor in France's advancement.

Karim Benzema will also be an essential man if he returns to fitness in time, and is both the most capped, and highest scorer in the squad, despite only being 26-years-old. 

One to Watch

Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann will carry much of the heavy responsibility of Ribery's absence, but luckily, he is an outstanding winger who could mature into a genuine international class player by the time he returns to Europe. He has been linked with a move to Arsenal and PSG among others.

Griezmann scored more goals last season than his Ribery, despite playing for a team that finished 7th in La Liga, and seems destined to take over the mantle from the 31-year-old.


Though the group is closer than it looks, France should still be able to finish first, avoiding a possible encounter with likely Group F winners Argentina. A quarter final berth should be within their reach, and from their on it's anyone's guess as it may very well be fellow European giant Germany they come up against.

However, a little momentum, and the likes of Pogba, Griezmann and Benzema coming good, could see them push ahead to the semis.

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch