Reigning champions France face Morocco in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening.
France are the first men’s World Cup holders to make it beyond the quarter-finals this century. Didier Deschamps will know all too well what happened to Brazil’s 1994 winners after defeating Ronaldo and co in the Paris final.
Here’s the French XI Deschamps may deploy to continue his nation’s defense of their world title.
France predicted lineup vs Morocco (4-2-3-1)
GK: Hugo Lloris – The last World Cup clean sheet which Lloris kept was in the 2018 semi-final against Belgium.
RB: Jules Kounde – Playing on a youth team which lost – by Kounde’s estimation – 90% of their matches, the versatile defender “developed this kind of hatred for losing”.
CB: Raphael Varane – In a squad which can boast ten Champions League winners medals, Varane has claimed four.
CB: Dayot Upamecano – Bayern Munich’s defender has clocked the second-fastest speed of any Bundesliga center-back this season, 35.34 km/hr.
LB: Theo Hernandez – One of three French players to concede a penalty at this World Cup – more than any other nation in Qatar.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – Goals are one of the few things Tchouameni could add to his well-rounded game. His ripsnorting drive against England was his first of the season.
CM: Adrien Rabiot – Despite completing more fouls than any other French player, the Duke has flown beneath the radar, avoiding a single booking.
AM: Antoine Griezmann – Fresh from appearing in his 73rd consecutive international, it feels a long time since Griezmann suffered a ban from the national team after breaking curfew as an under-21 player.
RW: Ousmane Dembele – Afforded just two minutes during the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup, Dembele has emerged as a starter for the 2022 vintage.
ST: Olivier Giroud – The “go-kart” to Karim Benzema’s F1 car – according to Benzema, that is – has scored more World Cup goals (four) than the injured Ballon d’Or winner could manage (three).
LW: Kylian Mbappe – As a six-year-old, Mbappe learned the French national anthem because – as he explained to one of his teachers – “one day, I’ll play in the World Cup for France”.