France’s bid to retain the World Cup continues against Poland in the round of 16 on Sunday afternoon.

Didier Deschamps’ side are the first defending champions to advance beyond the group stage since Brazil in 2006. France’s previous stab at retaining their world title saw Les Bleus fail to record a single win or goal in 2002.

Here’s the XI Deschamps may deploy safe in the knowledge that his side have already improved upon the vintage from two decades ago.

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann was denied a 12th major tournament goal by a controversial offside against Tunisia / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

GK: Hugo Lloris – The Tottenham goalkeeper will match Lilian Thuram’s record of 142 caps for the French men’s national team if he features against Poland.

RB: Jules Kounde – Versatility is such an integral part of Kounde’s game that he once described his best position vaguely as “defender”.

CB: Raphael Varane – The only player to play every minute at the 2018 World Cup is yet to complete a match in Qatar as Deschamps eases him back from injury.

CB: Dayot Upamecano – When Bayern Munich lined up against Barcelona in this season’s Champions League group stage, Julian Nagelsmann turned to Upamecano because of his experience playing with and against Robert Lewandowski. Deschamps may be tempted to do the same as France comes up against the Poland captain.

LB: Theo Hernandez – Earlier this year, Hernandez’s pitbull bit a 74-year-old woman’s dog to death after escaping his home in Como.

CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – The 22-year-old Real Madrid midfielder is the only player to have started every game for France at this World Cup.

CM: Adrien Rabiot – Only Kylian Mbappe has had more touches in the opposition box than Rabiot for France at this World Cup.

AM: Antoine Griezmann – Numerous French TV viewers didn’t see the referee disallow Griezmann’s ‘goal’ against Tunisia after the channel TF1 cut to an advert break at what it thought was the final whistle.

RW: Ousmane Dembele – So unpredictable is his dribbling, even Dembele is left uncertain. “I arrive in front of my opponent and even me, I do not know what I will do until the last, last moment,” he once explained.

ST: Olivier Giroud – As a child, Giroud’s fear of the TV character Alf was fostered by his older brothers.

LW: Kylian Mbappe – The rumoured signing-on bonus of roughly €100m Mbappe was granted for remaining at PSG would be the richest single payment to an out-of-contract player in football history.

Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!


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