Tag Archives: France

Raphael Varane confirmed to miss ‘a few weeks’ by Manchester United

Raphael Varane will be out for ‘a few weeks’ for Manchester United after he picked up an injury while on international duty with France.

The summer signing from Real Madrid started in the centre of a back-three in the UEFA Nations League final for France but was forced off injured just before half-time.

Varane chased a long pass over the defence and seemed to overstretch, grimacing in pain and immediately going down to receive treatment.

The 28-year-old was unable to continue and was replaced by Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano with the game still at 0-0, and he was seen with ice strapped to his thigh before and after the break.

France went on to win the game 2-1, coming from behind thanks to a brilliant performance from Karim Benzema and Varane was seen celebrating with his teammates on the pitch after the game.

But after returning to Manchester following the game, the club have revealed that he suffered a groin injury in the game and expect him to miss ‘a few weeks’ of action.

Injured, Raphael Varane of France - here with goalkeeper of France Hugo Lloris and physio of France Denis Morcel - will have to be replaced during...

In a statement released on the club website, Manchester United said;

“Raphael Varane sustained a groin muscle injury in the UEFA Nations League final and has commenced rehabilitation at the club.

“He will be out for a few weeks.”

With Harry Maguire currently out injured with a calf injury that has seen him miss the international break with England, United face the prospect of travelling to Leicester City at the weekend with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones as their only fit centre-back options.

The injury comes at an awful times for United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with United also facing Atalanta home and away in the Champions League as well as Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham in the Premier League before the next international break.

Karim Benzema is the best player in the world right now

When you judge the intangibles of football, often these things can come down to preference.

Whether you prefer a powerhouse, a technical clinic, or a fine mixture of both can often decide who you believe to be the best when comparing top talents that are immeasurable.

One thing that is measurable though, even without stats, is how a player affects football matches in a positive way for his team.

As it stands right now in the world of top level football, there is one man doing that more than any other and his name is Karim Benzema.

The Real Madrid striker was firmly in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo for many years at the Bernabeu, while a legal case saw his time with Les Bleus cut short too.

But over the last 12 months it’s hard to argue that there has been a footballer on planet Earth more influential than the 33-year-old.

It wasn’t long ago that I wrote an article pleading for people to start giving Benzema his flowers for his fine form since the departure of his Portuguese strike partner.

Karim Benzema of France scores their side's first goal whilst under pressure from Cesar Azpilicueta of Spain during the UEFA Nations League 2021...

But in the last 12 months in particular he has improved even further and gone up another level, to the point where the French national team couldn’t overlook him anymore.

Benzema was the stand-out player for France as they crashed out of Euro 2020 earlier than expected, but he then started the season for Real Madrid on fire as the main man once again.

With no more Sergio Ramos and Marcelo relegated to fourth-choice left-back under Carlo Ancelotti, Benzema is now the regular captain of the side.

He’s not the same type of leader as Ramos, but he’s been just as effective. He’s built an excellent partnership with Brazilian winger Vinicius Jr and has put the team on his shoulders, with a breathtaking ten goals and seven assists in ten games so far this season.

He continued that into the UEFA Nations League with France, as he grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck in the semi-final and final as they became the first team to win all three major international honours.

In the semi-final at 2-0 down to Belgium, it was he he stepped up in a team of superstars and led by example. A brilliant bit of individual skill created a yard of space before he smashed the ball into the far corner to start the comeback.

Then in the final, in a tight affair between two top quality teams, moments after going 1-0 down it was Benzema again who collected the ball out wide, skipped past a defender and curled a wonder strike into the top corner.

Karim Benzema of France celebrates his team's second goal during the UEFA Nations League Final match between the Spain and France at San Siro Stadium...

It was just another moment of a glorious career but more importantly a glorious year.

Don’t talk to me about Lionel Messi. Don’t talk to me about Cristiano Ronaldo. Don’t talk to me about Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski or Kevin De Bruyne. Karim Benzema is the best player in the world right now.

Manchester United fans panic as Raphael Varane injured for France

Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has sparked panic among supporters after he was substituted for France with an injury.

Varane started in the centre of a back three for the reigning World champions in their UEFA Nations League final against Spain. But after 41 minutes a ball was played over the top and replays showed the 28-year-old grimace with pain.

The former Real Madrid man went down with the ball out of play and after a short period of treatment from the medical staff was immediately substituted, with Bayern Munich defender Dayot Upamecano replacing him.

While the injury wasn’t clear and there was no coming together with another player, Varane was then shown on the bench by Sky cameras with an ice pack strapped to his right thigh.

That would suggest a muscle injury and would likely mean he would miss at least a few weeks if the problem is as bad as it seems.

That is awful news for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, with captain Harry Maguire already out injured with a calf problem picked up against Aston Villa in the Premier League.

That would leave Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones as the only fit centre-back options, with the Ivorian playing just once and Jones yet to feature for the first-team this season.

United’s upcoming fixture schedule is incredibly tough, starting with Leicester at the King Power Stadium next weekend.

They then have back-to-back games at Old Trafford against Atalanta in the Champions League before a huge clash with rivals Liverpool the following weekend.

They then travel to north London to take on Tottenham Hotspur before the return fixture against Atalanta in Europe, before finally taking on Manchester City at Old Trafford on November 6th.

Belgium the perennial underachievers again as Eden Hazard’s decline continues

Belgium continued their winless golden era as they blew a 2-0 lead to world champions France as they crashed out of the UEFA Nations League in the semi-final stage.

Yannick Carrasco and Romelu Lukaku gave Roberto Martinez’s side a 2-0 lead at half-time as the Red Devils turned in a very solid display in the first half. The second half however was a completely different story, with France dominating.

Karim Benzema pulled one back after great work and link-up with Kylian Mbappe, before the PSG man equalised from the spot just minutes later. Lukaku thought he had won it for Belgium late on but a marginal offside call was made by VAR, before Theo Hernandez slammed in a late winner for the world champions.

It marked yet another occasion that Belgium, who have been ranked as the number one team in the world by FIFA since 2018, failed to reach a major final in an international tournament.

It’s supposed to be their golden generation too, with all of Thibaut Courtois, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Youri Tielemans, Yannick Carrasco, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku part of the squad on a regular basis over the last few years.

But once again they have failed to deliver, and their poor performance in the end was summed up by their influential captain Hazard’s lack of form.

The former Chelsea man has been a shadow of himself since moving to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019 for £100m, with persistent injuries and a lack of quality in his game.

It showed once again here as the skipper lacked his trademark explosion away from defenders, often slowing the game to a walking pace. His passing was off, his creativity non-existent and Belgium essentially played with ten in attack while he was on the pitch.

Real Madrid have managed to win La Liga without him and Karim Benzema is still flourishing. His new partnership with Mbappe at international level will only have Real Madrid’s board scratching their heads at the point of keeping Hazard around next summer if he doesn’t quickly improve.

As for Belgium, it was more of the same. Their individual quality comes through in drips and drabs and against most teams they are able to tear teams apart, but against sides that can match them for quality they seem to crumble under pressure.

Belgium's Axel Witsel and Belgium's Yannick Carrasco look dejected after a soccer game between Belgian national team Red Devils and France, the...

Hazard and De Bruyne are now in their 30’s, the three regular defenders are all mid-30’s, Witsel is 32 and Lukaku is 28. A large chunk of this team is coming to the end of their international career and the replacements while good, aren’t quite what these guys once were.

It’s a missed opportunity and a real waste of talent for one of the most exciting pool of players in world football over the last seven years or so.

They’ll have to rebuild and restructure their team now, while France and Spain battle it out for yet another international trophy after once again getting it right.

Italy, Portugal & France set pace at Euro 2020 but Spain are dark horses

Euro 2020’s first round of matches has come to an end and we’ve been shown who the true contenders for the title are already.

It is one of the more stacked tournaments in recent memory, with several top sides coming into the competition with an expectation upon them that they make it to the latter stages.

But following the first round of group games being completed, three teams in particular have stood out as ones to watch more than any other.

Italy opened up the tournament with a 3-0 win over Turkey in Rome, where they really took their pre-tournament dark horses tag literally and turned in a fantastic performance. Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne added to an own goal but the way they kept a high tempo, pressed hard and passed the ball quickly was a joy to watch.

Their home advantage definitely will have helped to spur them on but defensively they still look as solid as they are historically know for being, but going forward they have lots of options and dynamism which stands them in good stead going forward.

Portugal are another side who started the tournament very well. It was a close game against Hungary, in front of a capacity crowd of 61,000 fans in Budapest, but Portugal largely dominated proceedings with some bad decisions and execution in the final third costing them.

They eventually found their rhythm late on though and scored three goals in the final ten minutes to put Hungary to the sword and earn themselves three points – as many as they earned in the entire group stage in 2016.

Also in their group are the last two World champions France and Germany, who played out a highly entertaining game later on Tuesday evening. Mats Hummels’ own goal in the end was the difference, but the French side played a great game that saw them control the tempo for the most part.

They had two goals disallowed for marginal offside calls too to show they are a threat going forward, while Germany didn’t really create any clear cut chances the other way.

But Spain’s performance during the competition is one that has largely divided opinion.

Luis Enrique’s side enjoyed 80% of possession against Sweden in their opening game but after missing a host of chances during the game they could only secure themselves a 0-0 draw – the only one of the tournament so far.

While some claimed they “defended with the ball” by just playing the ball side-to-side with little penetration, I saw it very differently.

They played with a high tempo, moved the ball quickly and Pedri in particular stood out as someone who looked to make those incisive passes in behind the low block of Sweden’s defence. The only thing they were missing was a clinical finisher in goal.

Alvaro Morata, as usual, missed the majority of those but Spain were threatening enough and kept the ball well enough to make me think that that isn’t something that will trouble them long term.

They have options in the squad that can score, with the likes of 30-goal Gerard Moreno, but also Morata can’t keep missing all his chances. The likes of Dani Olmo, Adama Traore, Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres and Mikel Oyarzabal are also all capable of finding the net, so it’s not like Spain are going to struggle for depth.

I’m not saying they’re going to waltz to a tournament win here, not by any stretch, but with their style of play and the fact they’re clearly very well drilled in that methodology the results will only improve over time.

Against the top sides they will absolutely need to be more clinical, but they are well set up to get far in this tournament and depending on their route and getting a bit of lucky you cannot rule them all the way out just yet.

Assessing Euro 2020’s heavyweights

After a year long delay, Euro 2020 is finally upon us with a genuine top level tournament threatening to take place.

After the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the tournament last summer, 24 nations will finally take place across the continent as we seek to crown the champions of Europe for the first time since Portugal lifted the trophy in 2016.

With so many stars packing the tournament with quality at the vast majority of teams, some squads are far more stacked than others. With that said, there are several teams who will believe they have a genuine chance of winning the competition this summer.

All the usual heavyweights are involved this year so lets take a look at the top contenders for the trophy this summer at Euro 2020.


The Dutch squad looked set to develop into something genuinely exciting under Ronald Koeman, reaching the UEFA Nations League final and bringing through yet another generation of exciting youngsters.

Then Koeman left for Barcelona and was replaced by Frank De Boer, arguably the worst manager in football right now still getting jobs at the top level. It didn’t help that Virgil Van Dijk got a horror injury before the tournament started that ruled him out for a year and it’s even less helpful that goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to sit the tournament out.

They’re preparing to play in a 3-5-2 system with Memphis leading the line up front and in form, but they just don’t look well drilled right now. Despite that though, they have got a lot of quality in the side. Youngster Ryan Gravenberch will almost certainly be a breakout star in the tournament, while Matthijs De Ligt will look to improve his reputation as one of the best young defenders in Europe.

Unfortunately for them though, De Boer is such a huge negative factor when it comes to them that this tournament will come too soon for them to see any sort of success. With any such luck, it’ll be De Boer’s first and last tournament as boss.


It’ll be the final tournament of Joachim Löw’s 15-year tenure as Germany boss this summer and he’ll look to go out with a bang.

After finishing as runners-up at Euro 2008 and winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Low’s time in charge comes to an end when he is replaced by Hansi Flick after this tournament. But in front of him, he has selected a stacked squad full of young talent and experienced quality blending together.

After a horror show last time out at World Cup 2018 in Russia, Low will be counting on the quality of the likes of Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels in the spin of his team but with the fresher generation of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane supporting them.

Tactically they look sharp in a 4-2-3-1 or in a three-at-the-back system with wing-backs and they look clinical going forward too with such quality options in attack. They’ve been chucked into the group of death in this tournament, but with the four best third-placed teams able to qualify they will feel they have a great chance of getting through and then beating anyone in a one-off game.


It’s been a while since Italy were deemed a genuine threat at an international tournament but Roberto Mancini has absolutely got them there again.

The former Manchester City boss has developed a squad that is filled with quality in key areas and blessed with physical attributes as well as lots of technical skill. Led by veterans Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in defence, with the youthful Gianluigi Donnarumma behind them and Marco Verratti in front, they are a force to be reckoned with.

They then have the brilliance of Nico Barella, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Manuel Locatelli in midfield too while Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernadeschi can support the attack of Andrea Belotti and/or Ciro Immobile.

They have great depth, a great togetherness and are currently on a 27-match unbeaten run stretching back to 2018. They know how to keep a clean sheet with nine in their last 11 fixtures and with goals all over the pitch as well as an ability to either be defensive or go on the front foot, they’re real dark horses for the competition.


This is Luis Enrique’s second spell in charge of the Spanish national team, but his first tournament after his shock resignation back in 2019 saw him leave the role for six months.

During that spell and this current one though, Enrique has been able to put together a string of highly impressive performances using a variety of players and has even left some big names out. Despite naming only 24 players for a 26-man squad, the likes of Sergio Ramos and Saul Niguez weren’t selected.

Even without them though, Spain look good. Defensively they look well organised and press well, while on the ball they move it quickly and have lots of interchanging movement among their players. One thing they do lack is a lethal striker. Gerard Moreno hit 30 in all competitions for Villarreal this season but he doesn’t really suit Spain’s style of play and it’s Alvaro Morata who tends to start as the striker.

Spain have a chance of becoming the darkest of horses in the tournament, however their lack of a real goalscorer blunted their attack in the friendly against Portugal in the warm-up game. With players testing positive for COVID-19 just days before the tournament starts too, their preparation will be affected and I don’t think they’ll be successful this time although they will be entertaining.


The England squad is arguably at it’s strongest since the golden generation that saw Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and David Beckham all lining up alongside each other back in the Euro 2004 era.

With bags of attacking talent and some solid defensive options, Gareth Southgate has got a great chance of improving on the World Cup semi-final run that they managed to put together in 2018. Their preparations took a hit when Trent Alexander-Arnold was forced to withdraw with a thigh injury, but Southgate drafted in Brighton’s Ben White to cover in midfield and defence.

Jack Grealish is in the form of his life in attack while Mason Mount and Phil Foden are coming off the back of a Champions League final to end their brilliant seasons in attack, supporting Harry Kane who had the best season of his career all-round.

There is genuine hope and belief that England could turn in a Euro 96-esque performance this summer, getting to the latter stages and causing the big sides real problems. There is expectation on them to perform but with Southgate in charge they may struggle.

He prefers to work towards the strengths of his opponent to nullify, rather than exposing their weaknesses with his great squad and against the top sides that could be the difference in winning and losing.


One of the deepest squads in the tournament, Belgium have got some insane quality amongst their ranks for this tournament.

Thibaut Courtois is among the best goalkeepers in the world, Yannick Carrasco has excelled as a wing-back for Atletico this season winning La Liga, Kevin De Bruyne and Youri Tielemans have had fantastic seasons domestically while Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard would get into most teams when fit.

Robert Martinez has developed a great style of play with the ‘Red Devils’ which has seen them capable of dominating possession and counter-attacking in style, while defensively they can be a very solid side too with plenty of experience.

Skill, quality, a lethal goalscorer, fantastic creators in midfield and experienced, quality defenders, Belgium will be disappointed to not be challenging for honours at the very least at Euro 2020.


The current reigning European champions, Portugal are in the middle of a golden generation once again. After winning the tournament in 2016, the Selecao have developed even greater depth in their squad and are genuinely quality against any opposition now.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still leading the line at 36 years old but is coming off the back of a Serie A golden boot campaign, while Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo all enjoyed stellar campaigns with Manchester City.

Bruno Fernandes will be looking to improve his international form after scoring just twice for the national team in 28 appearances, while Joao Felix will be keen to finally perform to the standard everyone knows he can.

Fernando Santos is still in charge which means Portugal are still very hard to beat, but it also means they can be limited in attack against the top opposition which could see them struggle in the latter stages. In the group of death too, that could see them struggle early on and ultimately they’ll likely fall short.


Without a doubt the strongest squad and the favourites to win the tournament, World champions France are back with a vengeance.

Beaten at the Euro 2016 final by Portugal on home turf, France bounced back to win the World Cup in style and have developed one of the greatest pools of players to select their squad from ever. Now with Didier Deschamps still at the helm, they’ll look to make history as just the third team to be World and European champions simultaneously.

With a very similar squad to 2018, the biggest factor is the return of Karim Benzema after five years away from the international scene following legal and political issues. It’s pretty hard to improve the World champions, but Benzema is the calibre of player who can.

His potential link up with Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba make it nigh on impossible to see France not make the final at the very least and anything but winning it would be deemed as a failure among neutrals and French fans.

What’s Eduardo Camavinga’s best move this summer?

One of the hottest young talents in world football looks set to move clubs this summer, as Eduardo Camavinga enters the final year of his contract.

The 18-year old midfielder has been brilliant for Ligue 1 side Rennes since breaking into the first-team setup at just 16 back in 2019. The rangy, defensive midfielder has attracted interest from some of the top clubs in the world and Rennes have slapped a €100m price tag on his head.

That hasn’t kept the vultures from circling, with PSG, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea all still interested in a potential deal this summer. But which move is best for the young midfielder?

According to reports, the player is most interested in a move to the French capital. Paris Saint-Germain are crying out for a proper midfield, with Marco Verratti the only option with genuine quality on the ball.

For a squad so expensively assembled, having options including Ander Herrera, Danilo, Idrissa Gueye and Julian Draxler just isn’t acceptable for a team chasing European glory. Camavinga would add brilliance on the ball and some great defensive solidity too, as well as an extra superstar name with youth too.

Real Madrid are also in need of freshening up the midfield. Luka Modric has agreed a new one-year contract with the club but is 36-years-old and has only got so much left in the tank, while Toni Kroos is in his thirties and Casemiro will turn 30 during the season too.

The issue for the La Liga side is that they are severely lacking in cash for transfers. Their desperation for the European Super League says it all and while they’re likely to make a lot of sales this summer, it won’t be enough to secure the funds for all the deals they want to pursue. Unfortunately for them, Zidane’s decision to leave will also make them that little bit less attractive with young French talent too and a deal seems unlikely to happen.

There is also the option for a move to the Premier League, with reports that Manchester United are interested in signing him.

With Paul Pogba’s future up in the air as he enters the final 12 months of his contract, the rangy midfielder is seen as an ideal replacement should the World Cup winner end up leaving Old Trafford. The likelihood however is that even if Pogba does leave, there are clubs in better positions who would be interested and signing for United would be a big gamble for the player.

It seems as though the most ideal situation for Camavinga is the move to PSG, but with a €100m price tag with just one year left on his contract he may be forced to wait to make it.

It’s unlikely anyone will agree to pay that amount and whether Rennes would rather lose him for free is unknown, but the player has made it clear to the club that he will not be signing a renewal under any circumstances.

The decision ultimately comes down to how serious Rennes are about their price tag and how stubborn they really want to be. But for Camavinga, he’d be pretty silly to go anywhere but PSG at this point too.

Karim Benzema is so good France couldn’t overlook him anymore

The impossible has happened – Karim Benzema is back in the France squad for Euro 2020.

The superstar Real Madrid striker had been absent for five years following a scandal involving former teammate Mathieu Valbuena, in which it’s claimed that Benzema stood by and allowed him to be blackmailed.

The situation has prevented him being involved in the national team since 2016, meaning he missed the Euro 2016 finals and the 2018 World Cup win among other things.

But manager Didier Deschamps has made the stunning decision to bring the 31-year-old back to the fold for the upcoming European Championships to bolster an attack short on goals domestically this season.

Olivier Giroud has been the man to lead the line in Benzema’s absence, but the 34-year-old has been limited to just 1003 minutes across the Premier League and Champions League this season. Wissam Ben Yedder has been much better, scoring 20 goals in Ligue 1, while Antoine Griezmann has managed 19 in all competitions for Barcelona.

But then after Kylian Mbappe’s stunning 40 goal season with PSG, Benzema is the next highest scoring Frenchman with 29 goals in 44 games for the Spanish side.

He is the highest scoring Real Madrid player since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club in 2018, scoring more than double the next highest player and was the main man as they lifted La Liga last season and took the race to the final day this season.

He has consistently performed to a world class level, with the added string to his bow that he can heavily influence games as an attacker without getting a goal or assist. He has worn the captains armband in Madrid a lot too, showing true leadership qualities and is experienced yet still in his prime.

All the ingredients were right, but squad politics meant he couldn’t be considered – until now.

He’s become so influential and important for his club side in a position where the national team need more big characters, that it was the elephant in the room at every squad announcement.

Benzema’s inclusion elevates France’s position as favourites at the tournament, ahead of the likes of Portugal, Belgium, England, Italy and Spain. Not only is he a big name and a superstar, but he’s a world class team player.

Mbappe, Griezmann, Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and Kingsley Coman will all get even better with Benzema playing in and around them and France now have another match-winner amongst their ranks.

Remembering Greatness: Lilian Thuram

When you think back to the legendary French national team back in the late nineties and early 00’s, one thing they were built off was a solid defence.

Along with the elegance of Zinedine Zidane in midfield and the explosive technique of Christophe Dugarry and Youri Djorkaeff in attack, in addition to the youthful energy and skill of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, they were able to field a defence that was complete with everything you’d ask for.

One of the stand-out performers of that golden generation was right-back and absolute unit Lilian Thuram.

Standing at 6ft tall, Thuram was a physical defender who used those gifts to great effect constantly. He had fantastic pace, excellent strength, a brilliant football brain and was a leader throughout his career, winning a trophy at every club he played for as well as at international level.

He started off with AS Monaco in Ligue 1 as a teenager and after a couple of seasons as a back-up squad player, he finally broke into the team as a regular in the right-back position. In that first season with Monaco he won the Coupe de Ligue, although he wasn’t selected to play in that game by a certain Arsene Wenger.

He would go on to make 193 appearances for the French giants, while making his international debut in 1994. He also competed in Euro 1996, starting four out of five of France’s fixtures as they went out in the semi-finals on penalties after conceding just two goals throughout the tournament.

Those performances would earn him a high-profile move to Parma in Serie A, as he became part of their legendary team filled with talent such as Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo.


He made over 200 appearances for the club and won three trophies during his time in the famous yellow and blue shirt, all of which came in 1999. An excellent campaign saw Parma do the double, winning the Coppa Italia on away goals after drawing 3-3 with Fiorentina over two legs, before lifting the UEFA Cup thanks to a 3-0 win over Marseille in Moscow.

Thuram became a stalwart of the team and was a leader of the changing room as they went on to win the Supercoppa Italiana with a 2-1 win over league champions AC Milan, with Thuram captaining the team as one of the three centre-backs.

While he never lifted the Serie A title with Parma, many regard that period of his career as the best despite the trophies that would follow at club level. Not only did he do brilliantly with the Italian side, but he was magnificent as France dominated the international scene too.

Continuing in his right-back role with the national team, France won the 1998 World Cup with Thuram starting six out of seven games and the team conceding just once with him in the team. That goal came in the semi-final against Croatia, where Thuram played Davor Suker onside to allow them to take the lead. He made amends for losing that perfect record however by scoring twice to send Les Bleus through to the final – his only two international goals.

At Euro 2000 he was just as influential and important, starting five out of six games and completing every minute of each of those games. In fact, the only minutes he missed during the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 were when he was rested in the third group game of both tournaments with France already qualified, such was his importance.

The following season with Parma would go on to be his last as he led the team to a fourth place league finish and a Coppa Italia final, where they were beaten by Fiorentina 2-1 on aggregate.

His phenomenal reputation and ability earned him a move to Serie A heavyweights Juventus, who took him and Buffon at the same time for a deal that would be worth around €41million today.

The move saw him final claim some of the many titles his ability deserved, as he racked up four Scudetto’s (although two were later revoked due to the match-fixing scandal) and two Italian Supercoppa’s in five years at the club.

Once again playing as a right-back under Marcelo Lippi and then Fabio Capello, Thuram showed the world that while he was known as a no-nonsense central defender that had shone as one of the best around in the toughest defensive era, he could go both ways.

He continued to use his pace and intelligence to overlap and cause problems for opposition defenders in a team that dominated the bulk of possession and he was able to adapt brilliantly.

French players Christophe Dugarry, Lilian Thuram, and Robert Pires celebrate with their trophy after winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup 3-0 against...

Thuram was an ever-present in the team that made it all the way to the 2003 UEFA Champions League final, where they were beaten by Serie A rivals AC Milan on penalties at Old Trafford.

After the match-fixing scandal that rocked Italian football, Thuram was coming to the end of his career at 34 years old. That didn’t stop the top clubs wanting him however, as European champions Barcelona paid €5m to bring him to Spain.

There he would act largely as back up to Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez and Gabriel Milito at centre-back with his pace now not what it once was. It was a transitional period for Los Cules and while they didn’t win La Liga during his time at the club, he was part of the club that won the Super Cup in 2006 – playing one half of the second leg in a 4-0 aggregate win.

Thuram would retire at the end of his two year spell as the third player to hit 100 international caps and most capped French player every with 142 caps to his name, with a record of having won everywhere he went.

Without a doubt one of the best pure defenders the modern game has ever seen, but also one of the most underrated attacking full-back to play the game too. One of France’s greatest ever exports, remember Lilian Thuram’s greatness next time you’re talking about all-time great defenders.

What is France’s best XI for the Euros?

Every now and then you get a nation that has a pool of players available to fill three of four starting XI’s capable of winning a tournament.

Most recently was Spain, who won three international tournaments in a row between 2008-2012, had a generation of players that were part of the most dominant side of the post-war era but were also spread all over the continent at the biggest club sides.

Now, France are the leading generation when it comes to player development with a pool of players to pick from as deep as the Atlantic. But with Euro 2020 around the corner and the World Cup 2022 qualifiers underway, what is their strongest lineup?


There are a handful of positions in the side that aren’t up for debate right now and goalkeeper is one of them.

Tottenham stopper Hugo Lloris is the captain of the national team and has been the man to don the number one shirt since 2009 and is the most capped goalkeeper in the history of Les Blues. He maintains a high level of performance for the team, even since winning the World Cup two years ago and he is still the best option.

Starter: Hugo Lloris


The defence on paper is one of the most stacked positions that manager Didier Deschamps has to choose from. The likes of Aymeric Laporte, Jules Kounde, Wesley Fofana are yet to be capped fully at senior level, while Real Madrid’s starting full-back Ferland Mendy is only recently breaking into the team.

France v Portugal - Nations League - Group 3 : News Photo

Despite naturally being a left-back, Mendy would be my pick on the right-hand side of the defence. He is both footed, excellent in both directions, quick and great on the ball so would provide plenty of balance to the team. That would also allow Theo Hernandez to continue in the left-back role, where he has been impressive for AC Milan this season and the national team. Lucas Digne is another option, but Hernandez is that bit more dynamic and for me just edges it in their personal battle.

In the centre, Deschamps has so many options. Aside from the three previously mentioned players the likes of Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Dayot Upamecano, Kurt Zouma, Clement Lenglet, Ibrahima Konate and even Samuel Umtiti are all candidates for the starting berths. Despite such a plethora of talent, Deschamps is likely to go with the experience and quality of Varane and Kimpembe. They both possess great pace, great positioning, are good aerially and with the ball at their feet while also having leadership qualities.

Starters: Ferland Mendy, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Theo Hernandez


Deschamps tends to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation because of the plethora of attacking options he has, but I think a fluid 4-3-3 formation could be the best way forward. There is already so much depth involved in the position with players such as Adrian Rabiot, Eduardo Camavinga, Moussa Sissoko, Houssem Aouar all in and out of squads.

Without a doubt, if fit, Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba will be starters in the heart of the pitch with their attributes balancing perfectly to help at both ends of the pitch. Rather than use Antoine Griezmann as the number ten option though, Tanguy Ndombele should come into the team.

The Spurs midfielder has had an excellent season on an individual basis and deserves to start in a slightly more advanced role. For Spurs he has played as both an eight or a ten and has the creative abilities to help the attack. He also allows for familiarity to switch to a more defensive 4-3-3 shape if necessary as he can naturally play in that position also. It would allow Deschamps to use the same players regardless of opposition but slightly alter the setup if necessary.

Starters: Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba, Tanguy Ndombele


When everyone is fit, the forward department is likely the one easiest to pick from for Deschamps such is the quality of his options.

Olivier Giroud has been a staple of the French national team in recent years as the centre forward and sits just seven goals behind Thierry Henry at the top of the all-time scoring charts for the national team. Despite that, the way he plays means that France’s attacks become a little bit one dimensional. He’s shown an ability in the past for his club that he is able to come off the bench and make a difference and at 34-years-old he’s unlikely to be too picky about it being a starting role or not.

France v Ukraine - International Friendly : News Photo

Out wide, Kylian Mbappe is the golden boy of French and potentially world football and is a guaranteed starter. His pace, explosiveness, skill and phenomenal output when it comes to scoring and assisting. On the opposite flank, whether it be on the left or right, Ousmane Dembele is the man that should get the spot. When fit he possesses all the skill and quality to be one of the best in the world and with both men’s ability to play on both flanks it allows plenty of freedom and interchanging throughout a game.

Up front, Antoine Griezmann deserves the spot. His appearance in the 2-0 win over Kazakhstan made it 45 international games in a row that he has featured in, more than anyone else in the post-war era for the French national team. He has a great international record and despite going on bursts of form this season for Barcelona, he currently has 14 goals in all competitions for Los Cules. He’d be able to drop deeper to link the midfield to the attack of play on the shoulder of the defence to run in behind.

Starters: Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele