New France boss Didier Deschamps this morning announced his first squad, for the upcoming friendly against Uruguay at Le Havre on 15 August.
After another disappointing performance for the team at Euro 2012, both in terms of performance and attitude, talk beforehand was about whether France’s former World Cup winning captain would make wholesale changes to personnel – particularly since he made a point, at the press conference in which he was unveiled as manager, of emphasising that a player’s behaviour beying beyond reproach would be one of his main criteria when making his choices.
Like previous boss Laurent Blanc for his first match at the helm, a couple of Deschamps’ decisions had already been taken out of his hands, with Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez both serving bans for their bad behaviour in Ukraine and Poland. But the main points of interest were whether DD would pick other bad boys Hatem Ben Arfa (with whom DD had several run-ins at Marseille) and Yann M’Vila, and whether he would make a break with the past, finally dropping older stagers such as Patrice Evra, Alou Diarra and Florent Malouda. Meanwhile, players such as Lille captain Rio Mavuba and Toulouse midfielder Etienne Capoue were hoping for some international recognition, after their impressive recent performances had gone unrewarded by Blanc.
In the event, Deschamps’ list did show some marked changes from Blanc’s choices. The full squad is as follows:
Lloris (Lyon); Mandanda (Marseille)
Clichy (Manchester City), Debuchy (Lille), Evra (Manchester United), Jallet, Sakho (PSG), Koscielny (Arsenal), Varane (Real Madrid), Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier)
Capoue (Toulouse), Gonalons (Lyon), Martin (Lille), Matuidi (PSG), Mavuba (Lille), Valbuena (Marseille)
Benzema (Real Madrid), Briand, Gomis (Lyon), Giroud (Arsenal), Payet (Lille), Ribéry (Bayern Munich)
So gone is Blanc’s first choice central defensive partnership of Rami and Mexes (although Rami is out through injury – as is France’s player of Euro 2012, Cabaye). While Evra keeps his place in the squad, Deschamps has dispensed with the services of Diarra and Malouda. Ben Arfa and M’Vila are unsurprisingly out, at least for this match, and Mavuba and Capoue, as expected, are given their chances in midfield (on Mavuba: “he plays for a big club, has Champions League experience, and is Lille captain – that’s enough to earn his place”).
Deschamps also has a clear eye on the future, with youngsters such as Gonalons, Varane and Montpellier captain Yanga-Mbiwa included. Jallet, Briand and Payet are perhaps the most surprising inclusions, along with Valbuena, who certainly deserves his place after developing splinters on the bench for the whole of Euro 2012 but who some expected to pay the price for his tense relationship with DD at Marseille. As for everyone’s Marmite player Yoann Gourcuff, he is not included for now, Deschamps saying “I am keeping an eye on him, but I want to give him a bit of time, before I make my decision”. Similarly, Deschamps clarified that he is counting on Abou Diaby, but spoke to Wenger and agreed to give him time to get back to full fitness.
Most interestingly for many fans frustrated at Benzema’s lacklustre showing leading the line on his own in Ukraine, Deschamps has said that it is possible that he will be played alongside Giroud or Gomis.
DD has also made it clear that Lloris is the number one choice keeper, putting to bed any thoughts that Mandanda might benefit from his time working with Deschamps at Marseille. Deschamps did not confirm, however, whether Lloris would remain captain.
This is of course an early season friendly, and the squad picked for France’s first World Cup qualifying matches against Finland and Belarus on 7 and 11 September will be more indicative of Deschamps’ preferred team. But this squad certainly appears to promise change and more of a focus on youth, as thoughts turn to Brazil 2014 and France 2016.