World Cup 2022 Group D: France have an embarrassment of riches for title defence

Les Bleus will be the team to beat in Qatar despite an underwhelming Nations League campaign

France's Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Jules Kounde prior to the Nations League match against Denmark. AFP
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There is always one team every other side is targeting from the moment the World Cup starts. This time, France will happily take up that role as they prepare to defend the trophy they captured four years ago in Moscow.

It’s a position that this great football nation is used to but it’s worth repeating: in Group D, France are the team to beat. They have an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent, and as proven they know better than most how to win at this level.

However, last year at Euro 2020, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Far from it. France won a tough group featuring Portugal, Germany and Hungary and did so unbeaten, but a remarkable penalty shootout loss at the hands of neighbours Switzerland was a reminder that they can be beaten.

At the same time, few will forget the ease with which they were able to glide through the World Cup in 2018. They flew under the radar in a tricky group and in the knockouts defeated Argentina, Uruguay, Belgium, and Croatia to become two-time champions.

Their Nations League form this year, meanwhile, has left a lot to be desired. From four games against Denmark, Croatia, and Austria, Les Bleus have drawn two and lost two, which is hardly going to breed confidence with so few warm-up games ahead.

Of course, the outstanding factor to consider is the astonishing quality they have to harness. If France get off to a good start and keep things steady in the middle of the park, there’s no reason why they can’t go on to successfully defend the title.

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Star player: Karim Benzema

One to watch: Kylian Mbappe

World Cup finals appeared in: 1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998 (winners), 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 (winners)

Fixtures: Nov 22 - France v Australia; Nov 26 - France v Denmark; Nov 30 - Tunisia v France

Updated: September 28, 2022, 8:54 AM
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