When Didier Deschamps announced his squad for Brazil, there was one notable omission. Deschamps decided to drop Samir Nasri, the Manchester City forward, for the sake of what he calls squad harmony.
And so this is where we are with France.
Deschamps claims that Nasri would not have been fine with coming off the bench so he had no choice but to drop him from the squad. This of course angered Nasri, who has won the league cup and the Premier League title this year with his club, and his girlfriend as well, who took to Twitter to voice her displeasure. (She has since apologized for her tweet, but not to Deschamps.)
But what about the rest of the squad, you ask? It is stacked. This isn’t like the situation on the US National Team, where Jurgen Klinsmann decided to drop forward – and US legend – Landon Donovan for a player of lesser value. (More on that later.)
Goalkeepers: Mickael Landreau (Bastia), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Lucas Digne (Paris St-Germain), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Paris St-Germain), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St-Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus) Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Loic Remy (Newcastle), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris is the captain of the squad and he heads an impressive back five. France have both experience and youth filtered all over their squad. Elaquim Mangala, who now plays for Porto but is heavily tipped for a switch to the Etihad next summer, Laurent Koscielny and Raphael Varane are all world class center backs while Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna are great full backs.
Moving further up the squad the French boast a fine collection of physical and skilled midfielders, none more impressive than Juventus’s Paul Pogba. The 21 year old was impressive this year in Serie A, and has attracted the attention of many of Europe’s big spenders (but he is probably going nowhere). The steel of the midfield all plays for PSG.
The attacking corps are solid. Karim Benzema, fresh off a Champions League victory with Real Madrid, is the probable starter, but Oliver Giroud is more than a capable understudy. Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann is a quick, flashy forward who does his damage on the wing. Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery, who had a solid if unspectacular season with Bayern Munich, is the key creator in this squad. Unfortunately, according to the latest reports, he looks like another casualty in the injury wars. (Deschamps still picked him in the 23 man squad, though.)
France is capable of doing a lot of damage in Brazil, and they will probably be first in an otherwise weak group. However, I see the omission of Samir Nasri as a hinderance to their success – especially if Ribery isn’t fit. Whether you think of him as temperamental, moody or a cancer, the man can play. For all their talent, France lack that oomph, that wild card creator who can break down a defense and create for himself and others.
That is exactly what Samir Nasri is.