It shows the strength of world champions France that even without injured stars Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, their midfield still looks brilliant.
Real Madrid pair Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga can line up in an ultra-mobile, technically superb midfield swing, with the promising Youssouf Fofana and talented ball players such as Adrien Rabiot and Jordan Veretout as well.
And there are plenty of others who have a good case to make that they should have earned a place in the 25-man squad, with a Champions League-winning Real Madrid defender, several Premier League stars and a hotshot striker also failing to make the cut.
In fact, France’s resources are so strong that even a team made up of players who missed out on their World Cup squad – announced by manager Didier Deschamps on Wednesday – could still have a good run at the trophy in Qatar.
And so with that in mind, Sportsmail have assembled an all-star line-up from those not selected, whether due to injury or otherwise, and present an insanely strong XI of those who missed out.
Paul Pogba won the 2018 World Cup with France but will miss out through injury this time around
FRANCE WC SQUAD FOR QATAR
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes).
Defender: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Konde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern), Raphael Varane (Man United).
Midfielder: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real), Jordan Veretout (Marseille).
Forward: Karim Benzema (Real), Kingsley Coman (Bayern), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).
GOAL KEEPER – Mike Maignan
AC Milan’s Mike Maignan would likely have been in the squad, either as backup to likely captain Hugo Lloris, or as third choice behind West Ham’s Alphonse Areola.
The French Guiana-born stopper, formerly of Lille, was decisive in the Rossoneri’s Scudetto 2021-22, with 17 clean sheets in the league, but suffered a calf injury in September and has not recovered in time.
In his place is veteran Steve Mandanda after becoming No.1 in Rennes, with Benoit Costil, 35, overlooked and the tournament probably coming too soon for youngsters Illan Meslier and Alban Lafont.
RIGHT BACK – Jonathan Clauss
Deschamps has seemed to favor a back-four system rather than a back-five with wing-backs, a style of play he flirted with in the summer, with mixed results.
That decision spelled the end of Marseille flyer – and reportedly Chelsea target – Jonathan Claus’ hopes of getting in, with more defensive-minded right-backs such as Benjamin Pavard and protection from the versatile Jules Konde preferred.
Leo Dubois’ move from Ligue 1 to Galatasaray in Turkey may have hurt his chances, with Milan’s Pierre Kalulu and Lyon’s Malo Gusto in contention for the next major tournament after impressing at age level.
Center Back – Wesley Fofana
God, does France have some depth at center back.
Ibrahima Konate, William Saliba and Dayot Upamecano are three of the most promising defenders in the world, with Raphael Varane – included in the 26-man squad despite a knock – and Presnel Kimpembe proven European performers.
Leicester’s £70m summer signing Fofana is injured until the end of December and is therefore ruled out, but chances are he wouldn’t have made it anyway given his country’s strength in the position.
Wesley Fofana was ruled out injured for the WC but was unlikely to make the squad
Center Back – Kurt Zouma
West Ham’s Kurt Zouma has probably paid the price for his side’s poor domestic form, with David Moyes’ men currently 15th in the Premier League.
Indeed, his international career may be all but over, given the considerable talents of Monaco pair Benoit Badiashile and Axel Disasi, Sevilla’s Tanguy Nianzou and Lyon wonderkid Castello Lukeba rising through the ranks.
Tottenham loanee Clement Lenglet also failed to make the cut despite recently breaking into manager Antonio Conte’s first team.
LEFT BACK – Ferland Mendy
One of France’s most surprising calls is to leave out Ferland Mendy. He has won just nine caps and is therefore relatively unproven at international level, but after displacing the icon Marcelo at Real Madrid, he was a big part of Los Blancos’ dominance last season.
Only Theo Hernandez is an expert in the position, and the manager probably believes, as well as on the other side of the defence, more natural centre-backs such as Theo’s brother Lucas Hernandez and Kimpembe can offer cover.
46-cap defender Lucas Digne has struggled for form and fitness at Aston Villa, while Rennes’ Adrien Truffert and Nice’s Melvin Bard could be the next taxis of the future.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD – N’Golo Kante
The irreplaceable, incurable N’Golo Kante. Once criminally underrated but now widely regarded as one of the best in the world at his position.
At 31, he is potentially coming to the end of his career in the short to medium term – especially given several recent injuries – but never mind, he would have started and been a key part of France’s plans in Qatar.
His midfield combination with Pogba was crucial to their success in the 2018 World Cup and his loss through injury will prove to be a big miss. Nice’s Alexis Beka Beka could be his long-term replacement for Les Bleus.
Chelsea star midfielder N’Golo Kante is another player to come out injured at the World Cup
CENTER MIDFIELD – Paul Pogba
You can say a lot about Paul Pogba, and many have, but you always have to admit that he was instrumental in France’s triumph four years ago.
He has struggled for consistency at times at club level, particularly at Manchester United, but often turns it on when playing on the international stage. The Juventus star’s injury weakens Deschamps’ hand, no doubt about it.
Other midfielders not included are Khephren and Marcus Thuram, sons of France icon Lilian, although their time may come.
CENTER MILF FIELD – Boubacar Kamara
Completing our midfield is Aston Villa’s Boubacar Kamara, the 22-year-old who was wanted by clubs across Europe this summer after his contract at Marseille expired.
Villa won the race to sign him this summer and he started well in the Blues but has missed the last six league games with injury and clearly hasn’t done enough to prove his fitness.
Maxence Caqueret, Sofiane Diop, Enzo Le Fee and Kouadio Kone are also bright prospects.
LEFT WING – Amine Gouiri
With Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann all options on the left wing, Deschamps has plenty of options.
That has meant Rennes forward Gouiri, who has six goals and one assist from 12 Ligue 1 appearances this season, misses out.
Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe, on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt from Paris Saint-Germain, also looks like a good future option.
RIGHT WING – Moussa Diaby
There aren’t really any truly out-and-out right wingers in the squad, with Coman or perhaps Christopher Nkunku set to be used on the right wing in Qatar.
Moussa Diaby knocks them in for Bayer Leverkusen but there is no room for his blistering pace or exciting dribbling for Deschamps, with more defensive numbers preferred.
Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise and Lyon’s silky youngster Rayan Cherki could be next in line for the 2026 edition.
STRIKER – Wissam Ben Yedder
This could be the last dance for veteran strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, but with Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and potentially even Nkunku covering the top, there is no room for Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder.
The 32-year-old has 82 goals in 144 games for the Monegasque side in all competitions, but was left out and will now rue what could be his last chance at a World Cup.
The future looks bright though, with Randal Kolo Muani, Hugo Ekitike, Arnaud Kalimuendo, Momo Cho and Southampton’s Sekou Mara all talented young strikers.
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