It’s time to put Auxerre out of my head. The season’s over, I’m tied down for the immediate future and I’m genuinely pretty excited about that, but today is European International League Semi-Final squad announcement day.
In similar fashion to my last squad, I’ve sought out a nice mix here of experience and youth. In fact youth’s a bit of a relative term, isn’t it. Right now it means anyone who’s under 30 and so probably has another world cup in them. First let’s have a look at some of the exclusions, because that’s certainly what the media are keen to focus on.
Spurs’ long serving goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is almost certainly the biggest name to be left at home. Yes I know what I said when I included him in my first squad: ‘He’ll be pushing 40 by the next World Cup but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t be of use to me then.’ Goalkeepers often age like a fine wine, only growing more experienced with age, but I’m 90% certain this is the end of Hugo’s decorated International career. Long, long gone are the days when he was the archetypal sweeper-keeper, dashing out of his area to clear a loose ball and avert danger. As good a keeper as he is, he’s slowing and on the downward curve. We’ve got a myriad of talented younger goalkeepers and I think that by taking the sentimental option and keeping him on any longer, I’d be doing the nation a disservice in the long run.
With Hugo out, a lot of the press expect a first cap for Swansea’s Alphonse Areola, but he doesn’t make the cut either. A less than stellar season in South Wales has left me unimpressed, but that’s not to say he won’t make future squads.
Monaco’s Theo Hernández is growing frustrated with his lack of international opportunities, so much so that he actually accepted a call up for Spain not long ago and earned a friendly cap. Even though he can play anywhere up the left, I see Theo as a full back and at the minute I have 2 fantastic left backs in Mendy and Digne. They’re both hovering around that magic “30” mark though, so I may well try and convince Theo to switch allegiances in the future.
Anthony Martial’s had a fine season for PSG, he honestly has, but I’ve been disappointed in his performances for my French team, so he’s left behind. At 27 though he’s got plenty of time to change my mind and add to his 71 caps.
Nabil Fekir should definitely move away from Real Madrid. I’m sure Rodolfo Borrell won’t thank me for that, but come on. A striker of his quality starting 10 times in the entire season and scoring 4 goals? Move, play more, score more and you’re back in, Nabil.
Moussa Dembélé is in a similar position, but for different reasons. He’s actually had a very good season for Real Sociedad, scoring 22 goals in 39 games, but I’d like to see him either move to a bigger club and keep that record going or at least add some assists to his game. This might be nitpicking but this is France! We want to play bloody nice football here and we need strikers who’ve got a bit of everything. There’s something about Moussa that just unsettles me a bit, like the only string to his bow is bullying the lesser La Liga defences. Porto are monitoring him, so maybe that move’s close.
So those are the big ones to be left out. We also have some new names though that I’m pretty fucking excited about, such as Stoke City’s Alban Lafont! I know, he’s been here before but after having been omitted from my squads for a while he’s fought himself back into the France-After-Lloris conversation.
“Finally!” Comes the cry from the French media. I can’t ignore Dayot Upamecano any longer. There’s few defenders on my radar that have proven sustained quality at the highest level whilst also having another decade left in them. Dayot’s most likely going to be a staple for France in the future and I’m delighted that he’s finally in the squad.
Florian Thauvin’s in the squad too. I don’t really know what to say about this one, I messed up. I was shown a video of a good performance he put in for Marseille and thought I’d give him a look, before realising that that was the only game he’s played this season. Whoops.
Hilariously though, the press aren’t too bothered by the obvious fuck up I’ve made and are far too concerned with the debate over whether Raphaël Varane should still be making my squads. He’s “beginning to show signs of age” apparently. Their words. 30 year old Varane has started 53 matches for Real Madrid this season, racking up 14 Player of the Match awards and averaging over 5 tackles per game. Behave yourselves for fuck’s sake, he’s our best defender by a country mile.
However, there is a certain amount of intrigue in what the media’s saying. Not the part about Varane obviously but the part about who should replace him: 21 year old versatile defender Yannick Clauss is indeed looking good at Arsenal. He’s definitely on the radar.
We will be without Varane’s usual defensive partner Aymeric Laporte as he’s still carrying an injury, but another slightly worrying headline is the one championing Alexandre Lacazette to get a place ahead of Hervin Ongenda. Hervin’s scored 12 goals in 28 appearances for Standard this year, which is modest I’ll grant you, but is a lot more appealing than Lacazette’s 3 in 10 for Monaco.
So this is our squad. My first bout of International knockout football has arrived as well as the first opportunity for France to win some silverware under my stewardship. Let’s share a little bit of our Renaissance with the Italians, shall we?
Squad in full
Loïc Badiashile, Lionel Gauthier, Alban Lafont
Djibril Sidibé, Sébastien Corchia, Raphaël Varane, Samuel Umtiti, Dayot Upamecano, Lucas, Lucas Digne, Benjamin Mendy
Adrien Rabiot, Corentin Tolisso, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Francis Coquelin, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Lemar, Paul Pogba, Kylien Mbappé, Florian Thauvin
Antoine Griezmann, Neal Maupay, Hervin Ongenda