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2018 World Cup team preview: France

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Getting to know France: Les Bleus come into this tournament as one of the favorties after they came so close to winning EURO 2016 on home soil. In Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann they have one of the most feared strike partnerships in the tournament.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Didier Deschamps led this young side to the quarterfinals in 2014 and the European Championship final in 2016, but he will be expected to take them to at least the World Cup semifinals this time around. The captain of the French national team for their only World Cup win in 1998 has his work cut out. Find out more about France’s history, here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 


What group are they in? Group C with Australia, Peru and Denmark. France are the overwhelming favorites to win the group but they will be cautious of Denmark and Peru in particular given their strong defensive unit and gamechangers in Christian Eriksen and Paolo Guerrero respectively. Still, a very decent draw for France.


Game schedule – Group C – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Saturday, June 16: France v Australia, Kazan 6am, ET
Thursday, June 21: France v Peru, Ekaterinburg 11am, ET
Tuesday, June 26: Denmark v France, Moscow (Luzhniki) 10am, ET


Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Lloris —–

— Pavard — Varane — Umtiti — Mendy —

—— Matuidi —— Kante —— Pogba —— 

—— Mbappe —— Griezmann —— Dembele ——


Star player: Antoine Griezmann – The leading scorer in EURO 2016 has excelled at Atletico Madrid in recent years as there’s no surprise the likes of Barcelona, PSG and Manchester United have all been linked with the feisty forward. Griezmann, 26, is entering his prime and a fine showing at the World Cup would see his value saw further. He has 20 goals in 53 appearances for France but he leads the line superbly and along with Mbappe and Dembele they can interchange across the front three and rip teams apart.


Manager: Didier Deschamps – A second World Cup as manager of France will see expectations much greater than four years ago in Brazil. Deschamps has built this French team into a young, energetic side and several of the players who starred last time out are still in the squad. That said, if Deschamps doesn’t deliver at least a semifinal berth then the likes of Arsene Wenger and Zinedine Zidane are being lined up to take charge of France this summer. That’s harsh but Deschamps knows all of his hard work since taking charge in 2012 depends on how his team play this summer.


Secret weapon: Olivier Giroud – He may feel a little hard done by not to start most games for France given his superb scoring record for his country (31 goals in 73 games to rank fifth all-time) but Giroud is deadly off the bench. Imagine being a defender and locking down Griezmann, Dembele and Mbappe for 75 minutes, only to then see Giroud coming on to bulldoze headers at goal? He’s the perfect Plan B and France must use him wisely.

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Prediction: This feels like the right moment for France to win a big tournament again. They came so close to winning the European Championships in 2016 and they certainly have the attacking and midfield talent to go far. The only concern is in defense with Hugo Lloris making some big areas in the second half of the season at Tottenham, plus young defenders perhaps a little untested at the top level. France should get to the semifinals based on their talent alone but they are capable of having a dramatic collapse as we saw in 2002 and 2010.

The 2 Robbies: Talking Liverpool, Manchester, Spurs at Man Utd

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle wrap up a great weekend of Premier League action. Liverpool took all three points against Crystal Palace. The guys chat about the mood in the United dressing room (12:40) and the opposite feelings across Manchester as Man City thrashed Huddersfield (25:30). We wrap up looking ahead to the big one: Manchester United vs Tottenham next week (33:30).

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5 p.m. ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Report: Woodward to appoint director of football at Manchester United

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Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward is readying a change to the hierarchy at Old Trafford as he attempts to steady the ship, and it’s not the removal of controversial manager Jose Mourinho.

The Manchester Evening News is reporting that Woodward will appoint a director of football at the club to help ease the burden after growing frustration from Mourinho and supporters following a summer with few transfer buys.

[ MORE: Klopp on beating Palace ]

Mourinho lamented the lack of additions in the summer after he gave a specific list of center back targets to Woodward and got exactly zero of them.

Now after beating Leicester City and losing at Brighton, United could be in a bad position early if they cannot manage a positive performance against visiting Tottenham on Aug. 27.

And MEN reports that Woodward is eager to get himself out of “the firing line.”

United have not held back when it comes to issuing press releases boasting about their many commercial partners, but there has been a quiet revamp of the club’s academy, scouting network and training ground facilities behind the scenes.

One of the final steps is bringing in a director of football – something many United fans have been crying out for following the club’s patchy transfer record with Woodward at the helm.

Woodward is not going to appoint anyone who would undermine his decisions, and the hire could speak volumes about Mourinho’s future, short or long.

Second week second-guessing Premier League table predictions

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The transfer window had just closed when ProSoccerTalk’s staff made their predictions for the 2018-19 season.

For the most part, the first two weeks of the Premier League season have cemented this writer’s faith in his projections.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

In four cases, however, being allowed some Monday mulligans would have me moving teams more than one spot in my predicted table.

Moving up

Spurs (Predicted 6th; New spot 3rd) –> The worries I have about Dele Alli returning to world-beating status have been quelled by Lucas Moura‘s newfound comfort in creating Premier League chances. Tottenham’s defenders the same. Next Monday’s trip to Manchester United will say a lot about both clubs. And hanging onto Toby Alderweireld instead of allowing him to steady Manchester United’s creaky back line was smart.

Watford (Predicted 18th; New spot 12th) — Don’t get us wrong, the Hornets have not done much yet. Beating a Europa League weary and shallow Burnley isn’t a great feat, though their home defeat of Brighton is a bit more impressive after the Gulls knocked off Man Utd. That said, Javi Gracia‘s men have a clear plan to get service to Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, and terrific playmakers in Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure. They are better than relegation fodder, and should finish 7-10 points clear of the drop.

Moving down

Manchester United (Predicted 2nd; New spot 5th) –> United probably would’ve drawn Brighton on Sunday had they a few extra minutes on the clock, but there’s a chance Leicester would’ve done the same to them on Opening Day if afforded the same opportunity. Is Eric Bailly the proactive wall we saw versus the Foxes or, well, the reactive problem he was at Brighton?

I believed the start of the season and return to fitness for so many World Cup players would dispel the odious scent from Jose Mourinho’s offseason obnoxiousness. It hasn’t, and it’s going to cost the team the Top Four. That said, I’ll hedge a little and say United’s players may make a decent Champions League run if given a good group stage draw.

Wolves (Predicted 13th; New spot 17th) –> I thought Wolves had enough firepower to challenge for a top half spot, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side looks incapable of keeping dangerous chances away from goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who can only do so much.

Klopp: Let’s not worry about sending statements to Man City

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Jurgen Klopp thought both his Liverpool and hosts Crystal Palace were feeling exhausted in the second half of the Reds’ 2-0 win at Selhurst Park, so he loudly threatened to murder his players.

Okay, okay, that’s not exactly true, but you be the judge: He got a goal out of it.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

“In these moments the fuel is really low and maybe the players need a bit of help from an angry manager, ‘Run or I will kill you,’ and they did that with a fantastic counter attack,” Klopp said.

Cool. That said, Klopp pointed tot his team’s commitment to fitness as a reason for their win.

“Second half both teams, you could see Crystal Palace maybe struggle a little bit more than we did but it was for us very intense as well,” he said. “We had these big chances, didn’t use them. They had their moments when Alisson had to make a few saves. The save on the free kick was outstanding. I know we have to play much better but for tonight I’m absolutely fine with that.”

Klopp bristled when asked about meeting Man City’s 6-1 defeat of Huddersfield Town with a fairly complete performance against Palace.

 “I am not interested in sending statement to Manchester City or anyone else. We want to win football games and that’s what we did tonight.”