A few weeks before the announcement of the list of players selected for Euro 2021, some Blues stood out in the first qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup. Others could or should have done much more.
Three matches played in eight days, seven points taken and the key to first place in Group D. Rather effective if not flamboyant, the French team is well underway in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. The first hitch against Ukraine (1-1) at Stade de France, the world champions managed their trips well to Kazakhstan (2-0) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (1-0). A few months before the announcement of the list for the Euro (June 11-July 11), which should fall on May 17 or 18, some players took advantage of this marathon of matches to score points with Didier Deschamps. Others have noted that they would have to redouble their efforts in the coming weeks to hope to be part of the 23 elected (or more if UEFA allows an enlarged list).
Dembélé stood out
He is most certainly the big winner of this gathering. Even if he only started in the second match at Noursoultan. Long awaited for his return to the selection, more than two years after his last call, Ousmane Dembélé responded. After coming into play against Ukraine, the Barcelona confirmed his current state of form by scoring in Kazakhstan with a nice strike from the right in the first period. Beyond his goal, his third with the Blues, he displayed a lot of desire and determination, including in his defensive withdrawal. His versatility, his unpredictable side and his ability to eliminate an opponent on a dribble certainly make him a player apart. Difficult today to imagine the Euro arguing without him.
Lemar convincing in a hybrid role
Also recalled by Deschamps after a long absence, Thomas Lemar probably did not mark the spirits as much as Dembélé. But he knew how to show himself. Aligned against Kazakhstan and Bosnia in a hybrid role of a very interior left midfielder, as Blaise Matuidi had been during the World Cup in Russia or more recently Adrien Rabiot against Portugal in the League of Nations, the former Monegasque was invaluable. By its activity, its technical quality and its ability to take risks in the penultimate pass. Of course, his influence could have been even greater. And Deschamps would no doubt have liked to see him create even more. But he knows he is holding on with Lemar, on the way to winning at Atlético, an element that can bring both left side and the heart of the game, especially against low and grouped blocks. If he continues his momentum in club, he will be able to believe in his chances of being at the Euro. Especially if Deschamps opts for an extended list because of the health context and the potential positive cases for the coronavirus.
Worthy, a credible understudy
It could do Lucas Digne’s business as well. Behind Lucas Hernandez, who has become essential since the World Cup, the left side of Everton finds himself in competition with Ferland Mendy. But he seems to have a head start. He was the one Deschamps started in Kazakhstan when Hernandez needed a break. As usual, he was convincing behind and voluntary in his hallway, multiplying the calls without always being well served by his partners. He confirmed that he was a more than credible understudy in this post.
A new status for Rabiot
In the midfield, we would have liked to see the Adrien Rabiot of Portugal-France, the one who had released in November one of his most successful performances in the selection. He had then put everyone in agreement by showing himself as involved in the recovery as just offensively. His contribution was much more neutral during this gathering. Holder against Ukraine and Bosnia, launched on time in Kazakhstan, the Turinese could have done much more, he who can be decisive as recalled by his decisive pass for Antoine Griezmann in Sarajevo. But with such playing time, it is obvious that his status has changed in recent months and that Deschamps is indeed counting on him for the Euro. As for Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, his place is almost certain.
Mendy will have to fight
It seems much less obvious for certain elements, like Ferland Mendy. While he sent Marcelo on the bench at Real Madrid, the former Lyonnais must for the moment be content to be a third choice for the Blues. Left and right. He was not entitled to a single minute in three games, even in Kazakhstan when Deschamps turned in defense by lining up Lucas Digne, Clément Lenglet, Kurt Zouma and Léo Dubois. The latter, however, was not sparkling and so maybe this is where Mendy has a card to play.
Ndombélé could have done more
Tanguy Ndombélé, for his part, had the opportunity to shine on Noursoultan’s synthetic. He did not really succeed. Tottenham’s sharp and punchy midfielder has given way to a player with too limited a performance. If he sought to fluidify the midfield of the Blues with simplicity and efficiency, he lacked a touch of madness to stand out in a very competitive sector. A sector where we must not forget some players like Eduardo Camavinga, already selected three times, or Boubacar Kamara, not yet called to the A but individual author of a very good season with OM.
Very attentive to the performances of the Espoirs, Deschamps will have plenty of time to analyze their performances during the group stage of the Euro which has just ended. And he might be disappointed. If the Bleuets qualified for the quarter-finals, the Camavinga-Kamara duo did not live up to such a meeting. Both holders in the inaugural defeat against Denmark (1-0), they have somewhat lost the confidence of their coach Sylvain Ripoll. The Rennais did not enter until the end of the match during the next two games, while the Marseillais remained squarely on the bench. For Kamara as for Camavinga, it will be necessary to succeed at the end of the season in club cannonball to hope to be selected by Deschamps for the other Euro. That of the adults.