With only 10 days left for the kickoff of the month long FIFA World Cup 2018, the euphoria of the mega football festival has just begun to set in. A mix of surprise entries and shocking exclusions from the full squad lists of all the 32 teams are making fans go gaga, amid talk of the impact of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology on the most widely viewed and followed sporting event in the world. By all means, the FIFA World Cup event is the most prestigious association football competition in the world and draws the highest following in terms of viewership and fan engagement, followed by the multi-sport world event, Olympic Games.
This time around, there are four clear favourites to win the World Cup, in France, Brazil, Argentina and reigning world champions Germany. Interestingly, these are the only national teams that have won the three major FIFA men's titles, the World Cup, the Olympic tournament and the Confederations Cup.
However, the French national team looks the best lot among the four on paper keeping in view their recent record. On the back of Antoine Griezmann's heroics, the Les Bleus managed to reach the Euro 2016 Final, where they succumbed to Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, on their home turf.
With the managership of Didier Deschamps, who led France to 1998 World Cup glory as a captain, the Blues cannot ask for a better boss to steer the national team to their second World Cup success in Russia. Two years after clinching the World Cup, the legendary French team, with the likes of Patrick Vieira, Zinédine Zidane and Thierry Henry, went on win the UEFA Euro Cup in 2000 under Deschamps. Although France's legacy continued to thrive in World football in the early 21st century, Zidane's infamous headbutt was considered as the beginning of their plunge. Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup in the penalty shoot-out.
A decade after their shocking end to their World Cup campaign in 2006, the UEFA Euro Cup 2016 Golden Boot winner Antoine Griezmann raised hopes of winning a major trophy. But, Portugal striker Eder's stunning goal in extra-time dashed France's dreams.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 France National Team boasts some of the biggest names in world football in all departments, making it a firm favourite to win the trophy. Australia national team coach Bert van Marwijk said France have a big chance of winning the World Cup. "We saw in part of France's match against Colombia in March, they have a very good team and have a big chance of winning the world championship. They have very fast and creative players, are physically strong, and they have one of the best players in the world at the moment in Kylian Mbappe. They have a lot of weapons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a result against them," he said to FIFA official website representatives.
Upfront in their formation, Griezmann leads the pack of highly talented youngsters in Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar etc., while Manchester United's Paul Pogba steers a solid midfield in Blaise Matuidi, N'Golo Kante, Steven N'Zonzi and Corentin Tolisso. Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, with the support of Benjamin Mendy, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, will be incharge of the defensive duties.
On the other side, four-time Champions League winning striker Karim Benzema, Manchester United's Anthony Martial and Hatem Ben Arfa were not included in the squad. Benzema has been left out of the French team ever since his formal investigation in 2015 over an alleged attempt to blackmail fellow footballer Mathieu Valbuena.
In Group C, France will start their World Cup campaign on June 16 against Australia, followed by games against Peru and Denmark on June 21 and 26 respectively. Many believe France along with Peru are the major contenders for the top two spots in Group C.
France Final Squad: FIFA World Cup 2018
Goalkeepers: Alphone Areola (Paris St Germain), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Olympique de Marseille)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris St Germain), Benjamin Pavard (VfB Stuttgart), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Adil Rami (Olympique de Marseille), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid FC)
Midfielders: Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Steven N'Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint Germain), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Nabil Fekir (Olympique Lyonnais), Florian Thauvin (Olympique de Marseille), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)