France may have just barely survived relegation from UEFA Nations League A, but Les Blues have significant concerns heading into the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 2018 World Cup champions will set out to defend their title, but recent struggles have seen doubts creep in. The most recent result, a 2-0 loss to Denmark on Sunday in the September international window, saw old problems and injury concerns leave France again scratching their heads.
Les Blues picked up just one win across six Nations League matches in a group with Croatia, Austria, and Denmark. They topped Austria 2-0 on September 22, but the sighs of relief didn’t last long as they fell to defeat in Denmark days later, with many of the old problems creeping back in.
While France boss Didier Deschamps has had to navigate a host of key injuries, they should have the depth to survive such issues.
What went wrong for France in UEFA Nations League?
France had a number of issues across the mess of Nations League results that saw them lose three, draw two, and win just one.
First and foremost was the anemic attack that saw France score a measly five goals across the six matches, including just three goals in their five non-victories.
Opposing teams are game-planning for Kylian Mbappe, who had just 28 touches in the first half of the latest loss to Denmark, finishing with 51 touches and one big chance missed by full-time, stymied by Kasper Schmeichel in France’s best chance to avoid the shutout. The PSG star scored just two goals in their six Nations League matches, and failed to register an assist. That has forced France to find attacking outlets elsewhere, and nobody else has stepped up, partially thanks to an injury to Karim Benzema.
Olivier Giroud has had preciously little service, Antoine Griezmann has looked rusty after a lack of club minutes, and Christopher Nkunku hasn’t seen much of the field.
In a related issue, there’s been a severe disconnect between the midfield and attack. N’Golo Kante has been hampered by injuries, and the Real Madrid duo of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga haven’t been able to pick up the slack. Griezmann hasn’t been the creative force they need at the second striker role, and the few chances he has created, those up front have failed to capitalize on.
Then there’s the defensive frailties. In the absence of a slew of injured French defenders, those behind have failed to step up. Against Denmark, Dayot Upamecano was lazy on the first goal from Kasper Dolberg, while nobody stepped to challenge Andreas Olsen on the second.
France injuries ahead of World Cup
Injuries have played a big part in France’s Nations League struggles. Both up front and at the back, Deschamps could field a starting XI that challenges for the World Cup title with those sidelined by injuries.
In the attack, Benzema is down with a quad injury, and while he’s expected to return before the World Cup, his absence has left a massive hole in the France attack. Giroud is useful in the right setting, but he doesn’t present nearly the danger the Real Madrid star can provide. Add in a hamstring injury for Kingsley Coman, and the France attack has been slightly hampered.
The France midfield sorely misses Kante, who has been sidelined for much of this season with various injury problems, a growing issue across the last few years of the Chelsea midfielder’s career. Paul Pogba has had similar problems, with a knee injury that has sidelined him for months and leaves him questionable to return before the World Cup. With further injuries to Adrien Rabiot and Boubacar Kamara, they’re dipping deep into the depth chart.
The defensive injuries have been the most significant, with Presnel Kimpembe, Theo Hernandez, Lucas Hernandez, Ibrahima Konate, and Jules Kounde all going down. Even in goal, Hugo Lloris and Mike Maignan are both down with various problems.
You can *almost* make a full Starting XI (with subs!) for #France’s injured list. It’s just missing a left winger!
— Kyle Bonn (@the_bonnfire) September 22, 2022
France odds to win World Cup 2022
Despite the recent struggles, France are still considered one of the favorites to win the 2022 World Cup. Depending on the bookmaker, they’re either second-favorite or third-favorite to lift the World Cup trophy.
Much of that is down to their victory in 2018, but also those around them are struggling in the run-up to the World Cup as well. England were relegated from Nations League A thanks to a run of poor results, while Spain and Germany also suffered disappointing results as well.
Odds via Caesars (USA), Sports Interaction (Canada), and SkyBet (UK).
Odds current as of September 25, 2022.