Storm clouds hang over France team ahead of World Cup defense

Storm clouds hang over France team ahead of World Cup defense

Just two months before France begin their defense of the World Cup, the mood around the team contrasts with the celebrations that followed their victory over Croatia in the 2018 final.

Clouds have been gathering over coach Didier Deschamps and his squad as key players struggle with injuries and personal issues.

Meanwhile, the French Football Federation (FFF) is locked in a dispute over the image rights of its biggest star and its president faces accusations of inappropriate behaviour.

Everything threatens to derail France’s campaign in Qatar.

More immediately, they enter their final matches before the World Cup this week against Austria and Denmark in the UEFA Nations League with a depleted squad.

Paul Pogba, scorer in a 4-2 win over Croatia in 2018, is among the players sidelined.

As the Juventus star struggles to recover from knee surgery, he has filed a complaint with Italian prosecutors saying he was the subject of a 13 million euro ($13 million) blackmail plot.

Pogba’s brother, Mathias, is one of five people charged and detained in the case.

Paul Pogba reportedly told investigators that he was indeed kidnapped by childhood acquaintances and threatened by two men in balaclavas carrying assault rifles, who accused him of failing to help them financially.

The former Manchester United midfielder also said blackmailers wanted to discredit him by claiming he asked a witch doctor to cast a spell on Kylian Mbappe, another 2018 World Cup hero.

“It’s his word against his brother’s. I’m going to trust my teammate,” Mbappe recently said of Pogba and those claims.

“I think it is also in the interest of the national team, as there is a big tournament coming up.”

– Mbappé dispute –

Mbappé himself is involved in a dispute with the FFF that risks damaging team morale.

On Monday, their meeting at the Château de Clairefontaine, an hour’s drive from Paris, was overshadowed by Mbappé’s refusal to participate in a photo shoot due to the FFF’s unwillingness to amend a rights agreement. image of the players.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar boycotted a shoot earlier, and on Monday the federation quickly responded, promising to “review the deal as soon as possible”.

Mbappe’s representatives insisted that the matter “obviously does not call into question his full commitment and determination to contribute to the team’s collective success.”

Meanwhile, the 80-year veteran president of the FFF is in the line of fire.

Noel Le Graet was summoned last week to a meeting with the country’s sports minister, Amelie Oudea-Castera. The government then announced that it would launch an audit of the federation.

That came after So Foot magazine published allegations that the FFF was suffering from organizational problems and that some former employees had alleged that they had been treated inappropriately.

The federation has initiated legal action against the magazine.

“It’s not the calmest atmosphere I’ve ever known,” admitted Deschamps. “But it’s not disturbing to me. My coaching staff and I are focused on what’s happening on the pitch.”

– Opportunity for rising stars? –

However, their squad will be without Hugo Lloris, N’Golo Kante and Karim Benzema, as well as Pogba, for the next matches.

Only five players from the 2018 final are involved, including retired veteran Olivier Giroud.

Among the other members of the 2018 squad, Benjamin Mendy is on trial in England for multiple alleged sex crimes that could end his career.

Mendy last played for France in November 2019. Les Bleus were knocked out of Euro 2020 by Switzerland in the round of 16 but bounced back to win the Nations League last year.

That latest victory showed the benefits of remembering Benzema, who recently received a suspended sentence for complicity in an attempt to blackmail a teammate.

The Real Madrid star is absent with a thigh injury, but absences can’t be bad, forcing Deschamps to play with rising stars such as William Saliba, Aurelien Tchouameni, Eduardo Camavinga and Christopher Nkunku.

Whoever shows up this week, France needs results.

They will be relegated from their Nations League group with defeat to Austria on Thursday.

Even if they win, they may need three points against Denmark, one of their next World Cup opponents.

as/pb

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