France Squad Selection Challenge for Euro 2024 Qualifier Against Greece

news 19-Jun-2023 Sport

France-Greece: Competition for Forward Positions as Kylian Mbappé Stands Out

France's attacking lineup for their upcoming match against Greece will differ from their game against Gibraltar, with only Kylian Mbappé guaranteed a starting position. Just a few months ago, "all countries were envious" of France's attack, as reported by L'Équipe. The trio of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, and Kylian Mbappé had the potential to make many national teams dream. However, since the Qatar World Cup, the first two have changed roles, with the latter becoming the team's captain.

Mbappé, with his new responsibilities, is the player around whom the coach wants to build the future. As France faces Greece on Monday, uncertainty reigns over who will accompany the number 10 on the offensive line. While potential starters have emerged in defense and midfield, coach Didier Deschamps is still uncertain about the center-forward and right-winger positions. Four players are vying for a starting spot.

Randal Kolo Muani and Olivier Giroud alternate as center-forwards. Deschamps seems torn between the two depending on the opponents they face. Giroud started against Ireland (1-0) and Gibraltar (3-0), two teams with low blocks against which he could use his power in the opponent's area. The all-time leading scorer for France (54 goals), who had a good end to the season with AC Milan, remains integral to the team.

Kolo Muani, on the other hand, is more of a mobile striker. "It's great to have different profiles," Deschamps said. In reality, the coach probably wants to initiate a new cycle in preparation for Euro 2024, by which time Giroud will be 37 years old. Kolo Muani's performances for Eintracht Frankfurt (23 goals and 17 assists in 46 matches) have caught the eye of several "top clubs for next season," as confirmed by Deschamps. Kolo Muani appears to be Giroud's designated successor.

For the 24-year-old Kolo Muani to permanently secure his position as the center-forward, he will have to score for Les Bleus. He has only scored once since the World Cup semi-final against Morocco (2-0), in four games for France. "I remain confident, I feel my moment will come. I don't want to rush things and do something wrong," he said on June 14.

"Randal is constantly improving," reassured Deschamps, who is expected to start him against Greece. His captain and fellow Bondy native, Mbappé, already endorsed him in March: "He is technically complete, brings a lot of energy, with impressive running capability. He's a new weapon in our arsenal." The two represent the future of France's attack, but who will be their right-wing partner?

Kingsley Coman and Ousmane Dembélé are both contenders to complete the trio. However, they have both failed to convince on a consistent basis. Coman was decisive for the first time since November 2021 and a match against Kazakhstan (8-0) in France's game against Gibraltar. With five goals and four assists in 48 appearances, the winger is far from his standards with Bayern Munich.

Dembélé's record is similar (four goals, three assists in 36 appearances). The Barcelona winger, expected to start against Greece on Monday, often has to cope with injuries. He started the World Cup well before becoming less impactful from the Round of 16. France has two of the most unpredictable wingers in the world, but the gems are now in their prime (27 years old for Coman, 26 for Dembélé).

Their inconsistency with the national team continues to disappoint. "They are players who destabilize the opponent, who make a lot of differences. (...) They can statistically improve or enhance what they can do," admits Deschamps. In other words, they need to score more goals or deliver more assists. At this position, Coman and Dembélé have an advantage over the competition, mainly represented by Moussa Diaby, who has never scored for Les Bleus.

This match against Greece, second in Group B behind France in these Euro 2024 qualifiers, will be a good opportunity for the two starting players to stand out in Deschamps' mind. For now, the coach has plenty of choices and is taking advantage of it. Time and matches will allow him to refine a typical attacking line, working around Kylian Mbappé to aim for the final victory in the European championship, to be held in Germany in a year.

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