With Mbappé and Deschamps, France’s future looks just fine

Dec 18, 2022, 11:47 AM | Updated: Dec 19, 2022, 1:49 am
France's Kylian Mbappe walks past the trophy at the end of the World Cup final soccer match between...

France's Kylian Mbappe walks past the trophy at the end of the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

              France's Kylian Mbappe celebrates with teammates scoring from the penalty spot his side's third goal during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
            
              France's head coach Didier Deschamps, left, and his players react after receiving their second place medals at the end of the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. Argentina won 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the match ended tied 3-3. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
            
              France's Kylian Mbappe walks past the trophy at the end of the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — France played its part in one of the most memorable finishes in World Cup history, even though the defending champions failed to retain the title.

Kylian Mbappé’s hat trick of goals all came late — first in regulation, then in extra time — and helped give France a 3-3 draw with Argentina in the final.

In the penalty shootout, it seemed destined for Lionel Messi to win his first World Cup at the age of 35, not Mbappé to win his second at 23.

Still, the foundations of France’s national soccer team are solid with just under four years to go until the next World Cup in 2026.

EXPECTATION VS. PERFORMANCE

France outperformed expectations even as the defending champion and the world’s fourth-ranked team.

A run of poor results in the UEFA Nations League, including a home loss in June to Denmark, plus a litany of injuries before and after the squad for Qatar was selected kept high hopes in check.

Then, in the last training session before the flight to Doha, forward Christopher Nkunku was injured by a teammate.

It got worse in Qatar. Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema was forced out of the squad because of an injury and then Lucas Hernández, the left back in the 2018 team, picked up a season-ending knee injury nine minutes into France’s first game against Australia.

France persevered and got better as the team passed through the knockout rounds — against Poland, England and Morocco.

The record now under France coach Didier Deschamps of two World Cup finals and a quarterfinal, plus a European Championship final and a UEFA Nations League title is truly impressive.

“I’m optimistic about the future,” said Deschamps, who has expertly mixed youth and experience in his teams. “A lot of players have played in many of those tournaments and have got experience.”

WHO’S OUT

Only four of the 26 players in the squad has turned 30 and Deschamps has made clear he wants to sign the contract extension the French soccer federation says it wants to offer.

This year’s World Cup could be the last for Olivier Giroud, who at 36 took the central striker role left by Benzema and broke Thierry Henry’s all-time France scoring record.

Giroud ended the tournament with four goals and now has 53, two ahead of Henry. Mbappé has 36 and could take the record before the 2026 World Cup.

Benzema turns 35 on Monday, and captain Hugo Lloris has his 36th birthday one week later. At 31, and after a standout World Cup, Antoine Griezmann can look toward another World Cup.

Deschamps is still only 54 and looks far from fatigued in his 11th year on the job.

WHO’S NEXT

The next generation of players to revitalize Les Bleus is already at the World Cup.

Several made debuts this year and their progress in Qatar was accelerated by all the injuries and illness to long-established players.

Aurélien Tchouaméni was joined by former Monaco teammate Youssouf Fofana in an emergency midfield pairing, and 21-year Arsenal defender William Saliba also got playing time.

If Lloris does step down, 27-year-old Mike Maignan is primed to add to his handful of international games. A domestic league winner at both Lille and AC Milan, Maignan also was injured and missed the World Cup.

Nkunku, now 25, will move to Chelsea next season after four years at Leipzig and impressing in the Champions League.

WHAT’S NEXT

On March 24, France will host the Netherlands at Stade de France to start one of the toughest European Championship qualifying groups.

A clash between the World Cup finalists and quarterfinalists is the most anticipated game on the schedule when national teams return to action in three months.

Greece, Ireland and Gibraltar are also in the group, which plays through November and will send two teams directly to Euro 2024 in Germany.

France also has available dates in September and October for friendly games against teams from outside Europe.

___

AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy leaves the field after the NFC Championship NFL footbal...
Associated Press

AP source: 49ers’ Purdy has torn ligament in right elbow

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy tore a ligament in his throwing elbow, putting his status for the start of next season in question. A person familiar with the injury confirmed the diagnosis of the injury Purdy sustained in the NFC title game. The person spoke on condition of anonymity […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Australia’s Women’s World Cup opener moved to bigger venue

Australia’s Women’s World Cup opener against Ireland has been moved to a larger stadium amid high demand for tickets. Australia’s opener was originally set to be played at Sydney’s new Allianz Stadium, which seats 42,500, but it has been shifted to Stadium Australia, which seats more than 82,000. Stadium Australia, the former Olympic stadium, will […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Judge denies LIV plea to expand discovery to Augusta members

A federal judge denied a request by LIV Golf to expand discovery in its antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour to include communication with 10 Augusta National members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. LIV Golf had issued subpoenas to five PGA Tour board members and Tim Finchem, the retired PGA Tour commissioner. It […]
17 hours ago
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts reacts after the NFC Championship NFL football game bet...
Associated Press

Eagles’ Super Bowl-bound Hurts still trying to quiet haters

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nick Sirianni and his kids made snow angels in the confetti on the Linc turf. Jalen Hurts puffed on a cigar alone at his locker and scrolled through the congratulatory texts on his phone. Out in the Philly streets, delirious fans refused to let grease slow them down as they slithered toward […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Sam Mewis, then of Manchester City Women, stands on the field during an FA WSL soccer match ...
Associated Press

Sam Mewis unlikely to play for US at World Cup after surgery

Midfielder Sam Mewis has undergone a second knee surgery and is unlikely to be available to play for the United States at the Women’s World Cup this summer. Mewis, who also plays for the Kansas City Current in the National Women’s Soccer League, first had surgery on her right knee in August 2021. But she […]
17 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce, right, celebrate with th...
Associated Press

Chiefs survive Bengals, get 2 weeks to heal for Super Bowl

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes certainly deserved a game ball from Sunday night’s AFC title game, when the All-Pro quarterback dashed off on his sprained right ankle in the waning seconds to help set up the winning field goal. Travis Kelce probably did, too. With the Chiefs missing three wide receivers because of […]
2 days ago
With Mbappé and Deschamps, France’s future looks just fine