'Reads the game like a kids book': The French superstars to watch out for

Ranked the seventh-best footballing nation in the world right now, France also boast one of the strongest squads at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™.

Of the top five all-time transfer records, three are in the current French squad, which also claims at least one player from the champions of all five major European leagues.

Ahead of the blockbuster clash between the Caltex Socceroos and France on Saturday 16 June at 8pm AEST, live on Optus and SBS, we take a closer look at the key players in Les Bleus' squad.

READ: What France expect from Australia


Hugo Lloris

The most-capped player (98) in the French squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, Tottenham shot-stopper and France captain Hugo Lloris will edge one closer to the 100 cap mark when he leads his country onto the pitch against Australia.

The 31-year-old made his debut for France back in 2008 and quickly established himself as one of the world’s premier goalkeepers.

He rose through the national team ranks quickly, cementing his spot as the country’s first-choice goalkeeper ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa.

Lloris was instrumental in Tottenham’s third-place finish in the English Premier League in 2017/18.

He appeared in 36 of Spurs’ 38 league matches, playing a huge role in his side conceding just 36 goals in the league all season – ensuring they were the third-best defence in the league.

Hugo Lloris France Tottenham
France and Tottenham captain Huge Lloris could prove the difference against Australia.


Samuel Umtiti

A key cog in what is expected to be a solid French defence, young FC Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti will provide quite a challenge for the Caltex Socceroos’ strikers this Saturday.

At just 22-years-old, Umtiti earned a move to La Liga giants Barcelona after a breakout performance at the 2016 European Championships. He made his France debut in the 5-2 quarter-final win over Iceland and went on to play in the semi-final and final.

Now aged 24 and a vital part of the defence for both club and country, Umtiti has been described as being able to "[read] the game as if it were a children’s book" and also has the ability to play splitting passes to start attacks from the back.

Samuel Umtiti France Barcelona
France and Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti.

Benjamin Mendy

A social media larrikin, Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy spent much of their record-breaking season on the sidelines due to an ACL injury suffered in September 2017 which ruled him out until April. Now fit and firing again, Mendy will prove a tough task for Aussie attackers and defenders alike.

The left fullback is one of the least-capped players in the France squad which is heading to the FIFA World Cup™, with just seven appearances for the national team. He made his debut in March 2017 against Luxembourg.

The 23-year-old broke the world transfer fee record for defenders when Manchester City paid AS Monaco £52 million for his services last July.

He only made five appearances for City this season thanks to that injury – but France boss Didier Deschamps obviously sees something special in Mendy. Expect him to perform on the big stage.  


Paul Pogba

In a career which has taken him from Manchester to Turin and back to Manchester again, all eyes will be on superstar midfielder Paul Pogba in France’s opening group-stage match against Australia on Saturday.

A qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ against Georgia was where Pogba made his senior national team debut and he was named Best Young Player at the Brazil tournament and played a key role in France’s run to the final of the 2016 European Championships.

Flashes of brilliance have come and gone during a mixed second stint in Manchester, where the 25-year-old has won two trophies: the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League.

France coach Didier Deschamps has said it’s ‘very likely’ that Pogba will start in their opening match against Australia, and if not contained could cause serious problems for the Caltex Socceroos.

France Manchester United Paul Pogba Chris Smalling
Paul Pogba (left) will be a key cog in the France midfield.

Blaise Matuidi

A non-nonsense midfield enforcer who is key for both club and country, Juventus man Blaise Matuidi will do his best to keep the likes of Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic at bay when he lines up against Australia.

Matuidi didn’t quite make his country’s squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and made his senior international debut in August of that same year.

He was in the squad for the following FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil and started every match as France finished runners-up at the 2016 European Championships.

In his past five seasons at club level, Matuidi has won the league four times – three with Paris Saint-Germain, and once with Juventus.


Antoine Griezmann

Fresh off Europa League success with Atletico Madrid and attracting attention from La Liga rivals Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann is one of the world’s trickiest players who is likely to keep the Aussie defence busy.

Griezmann is the fourth-equal most capped player in the France squad for the upcoming FIFA World Cup™, with 54 appearances to his name having debuted back in 2014.

The then-25-year-old enjoyed a magnificent time at the 2016 European Championships and despite his team finishing runners-up behind Portugal, Griezmann claimed the Golden Boot and the Player of the Tournament for his efforts.

The winger has been speaking about the Caltex Socceroos in recent days, declaring Australia "won’t be easy rivals" and there are no "easy matches at the World Cup".

If anyone could make something happen though, you wouldn’t put it past Griezmann being the man. He’s looking to put the icing on the cake after a spectacular club season in which he scored 29 goals in 49 games to help Atletico finish 2nd and Europa League champions.

France Antoine Greizmann
France and Atletico Madrid number 7 Antoine Greizmann.

Kylian Mbappé

Currently the world’s second most expensive footballer, French wunderkind Kylian Mbappé will be looking to put his mark on the world stage – but he’ll have to get past Mat Ryan if he wants to do it in France’s opening FIFA World Cup™ match against Australia.

The rise of Mbappé has been a fast one – he made his debut for France as an 18-year-old against Luxembourg in 2017, in the same match that France defender Benjamin Mendy earned his first international cap.

The upcoming FIFA World Cup™ is Mbappé’s first major international tournament at senior level. While France finished runners-up in the senior 2016 European Championships, Mbappé scored five times to help France win the under 19’s edition. 

Such is the strength of France’s squad, Mbappé isn’t a guaranteed starter with the likes of Olivier Giroud among those jostling for a position. What is guaranteed is he has the ability to damage any side he comes up against, whether it be from a starting position or the bench.

READ: Giroud expected to be fit for Australia clash

READ: Arzani 'buzzing' after Hungary cameo appearance

One thing worth bearing in mind is just how young Mbappé is. At 19 years and 174 days [as of June 12], he’s just 15 days older than the tournament's youngest player - Caltex Socceroo Daniel Arzani.  

France PSG Kylian Mbappé
Young striker Kylian Mbappé could prove a big handful for Australia defenders.

Keep up to date with the team as they face France in Kazan:

Caltex Socceroos Official Twitter - @Socceroos

Caltex Socceroos Official Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Socceroos/


France v Caltex Socceroos - Match Centre

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