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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.

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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.

PSG signs American defender Alana Cook from Stanford

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s team has signed American defender Alana Cook from Stanford University.

The 21-year-old Cook, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, has signed until June 2022. She was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year this season for her performances with Stanford and has represented the U.S. at Under-20 level.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

She played 93 games and scored five goals for Stanford.

PSG’s women’s team is second in the French first division and sits two points behind five-time European champion Lyon after 15 rounds.

Cook says “I really wanted to play in a European club and to play against the best teams in the world.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

MLS notes: Zimmerman spurns Europe, Vazquez sold, DC youngster in remission

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Let’s sweep up some good, somewhat-expected, and wonderful news from around Major League Soccer.

DC United defender and Maryland product Chris Odoi-Atsem announced that he is in remission after a fight with Stage Two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Odoi-Atsem was expected to undergo four months of chemotherapy, and the announcement comes just under three months into the journey.

At 23, Odoi-Atsem hopes to rejoin the team after his final round of chemo later this month. He was the 12th overall draft pick in 2017.

Another defender is extending his stay in Los Angeles.

USMNT center back Walker Zimmerman was a huge part of LAFC’s success as an expansion club following his arrival from FC Dallas, and was reportedly ready to test the waters of European soccer with interest from the Premier League, Ligue 1, and the Bundesliga.

But Bob Bradley pushed the right buttons and LAFC will have its 25-year-old mainstay back in the fold via a Targeted Allocation Money contract running through the 2022 season.

Finally, one of the key pieces to Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS Cup triumph is on his way out of Ontario.

Victor Vazquez is going to be sold to an unnamed Qatari club, pending a physical according to TSN’s Kristian Jack.

The 32-year-old scored posted 18 goals and 15 primary assists for TFC.

Transfer rumor roundup: Pellegrini to Man Utd? Dabbur wants Liverpool

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As Arsenal might be losing its head of recruitment, other Premier League movers and shakers are looking to bring big names to the Top Four fight.

If Northern Ireland is the hub for transfer movement, January is going to be a wild ride for one of the Premier League’s flagship clubs.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

The Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Manchester United is pursuing young Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini in addition to the whispers linking the club to former Liverpool wizard Philippe Coutinho.

Pellegrini, 22, has two goals and six assists for Roma this season, having become a regular call-up for Italy. He reportedly has a $35 million release clause in his contract, though he is cup-tied in the Champions League (Roma next faces Porto).

His 2.6 key passes per game lead Roma and only AC Milan’s Suso and Atalanta’s Alejandro Gomez average more across Serie A. Pellegrini is second on Roma in crosses with 1.5.

How does $115 million sound for an elite 27-year-old defender? That’s what Napoli would reportedly accept from Real Madrid to bring Kalidou Koulibaly west to Spain.

The report, which also links Real with interest in Roma’s Kostas Manolas and Porto’s Eder Miliato, says United remains interested in the player despite the exit of admirer Jose Mourinho.

Anything more than $97 million, the fee Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk, would break the world transfer record for a defender.

Meanwhile, Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is angling to bring his 20-goal season to Anfield.

Reports that Dabbur has turned down a move to Valencia in the hopes of joining Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino at Liverpool.

The Red Bull Salzburg striker has scored half of his 20 goals in the Champions League and Europa League, and has 11 Israel caps.

The cost for Dabbur is said to be $28 million, but is there any guarantee Dabbur can produce at a level that would demand playing time. Divock Origi has three goals in six matches and can hardly get time for the Reds, and Daniel Sturridge has only found 576 minutes in the first half of the season.

Arsenal to reportedly lose head of recruitment Mislintat

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The man expected to usher in an era of exciting new young talent at Arsenal may be leaving the club after less than 14 months.

Arsenal head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, 46, has been hailed as the man who discovered Christian Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Atlanta signs Watford teen ]

Well-connected reporter Raphael Honigstein says Mislintat is frustrated by a change in recruitment policy since Ivan Gazidis left the Emirates Stadium. Gazidis hired Mislintat to use analytics and stats to find diamonds, whereas new head of football Raul Sanllehi prefers to work his own network for players.

Mislintat is considered the key to bringing in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, as well as clear connections like former BVB center back Sokratis Papastathopolous.

His departure would be a shot across the bow of an organization which enjoyed stability under Gazidis and Arsene Wenger for years.