As Didier Deschamps commits to France until 2018, UEFA.com's Christian Châtelet reckons the future is bright and selects his Les Bleus side for the next FIFA World Cup.
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Didier Deschamps has signed a contract extension that means he will lead France till at least the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. UEFA.com's man in Paris, Christian Châtelet, imagines how Les Bleus might line up in Russia in three and a half years' time.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (will be 31 in 2018)
Lloris has flourished since his appointment as Les Bleus skipper in February 2012. An outstanding shot-stopper, he has made the No1 shirt his own at Tottenham Hotspur FC and is rated among the top two or three keepers in the Premier League. Come the 2018 World Cup, he should have four major tournaments under his belt and – at 31 – could be in his prime.
Left-back: Layvin Kurzawa (25)
The AS Monaco FC man did not cover himself in glory with his premature celebrations of France's UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualification against Sweden in the autumn, but since then he has let his football do the talking. His pace and crossing are valuable assets and he has learned fast in the UEFA Champions League. He made his senior debut in November.
Centre-back: Samuel Umtiti (24)
"He is 20 but plays as if he was ten years older," says Umtiti's captain at Olympique Lyonnais, Maxime Gonalons, of the versatile defensive player. He is not the tallest or fastest, yet he reads the game brilliantly. His technique is not bad either – as his goal against Tottenham in UEFA Europa League demonstrated.
Centre-back: Raphaël Varane (25)
'Le Kaiser Bleu' – is there higher praise for a defender than comparisons to Franz Beckenbauer? The Real Madrid CF man suffered a recent setback against Club Atlético de Madrid but his dedication and professionalism mean the experience should make him stronger. His tackles are as slick as his tweets: Varane has committed just two fouls in six UEFA Champions League games.
Right-back: Kurt Zouma (23)
José Mourinho said recently that Varane was one of the best two young defenders in the world – Zouma was the other. Transferring his talents from AS Saint-Étienne to Chelsea FC has taken a little while but over the past month or so it has begun to look like he has never played anywhere else. Strong, physical, and he will still be only 23 in 2018.
Left midfield: Nabil Fekir (25)
The winger has been at the heart of Lyon's rise up the Ligue 1 table, filling the gap left by Clément Grenier's injury absence. Fekir has already scored eight goals and provided six assists in what is just his second campaign in the French top flight. The Lyon-born player is uncapped and eligible for Algeria yet has represented France at Under-21 level.
Centre midfield: Jordan Veretout (25)
The FC Nantes youngster is also uncapped at senior level, though he has proven tournament experience as part of France's 2018 FIFA U-20 World Cup-winning side, alongside Paul Pogba and Umtiti. The box-to-box midfielder impressed in his first season in Ligue 1 last term and has picked up where he left off this time around, scoring regularly too.
Centre midfield: Paul Pogba (25)
Named the best young player at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Pogba has already claimed five goals in 22 senior internationals – more than both Zinédine Zidane and Michel Platini at the same stage. "He can match them," said Massimiliano Allegri, his Juventus coach. In 2010, the best young player at the World Cup was Thomas Müller, and he has not done badly since.
Right midfield: Antoine Griezmann (27)
Diego Costa's boots were never going to be an easy fill at Atlético, but Griezmann has addressed the task head on. The youthful misdemeanours that saw him frozen out of the national-team set-up are already long forgotten, especially after Franck Ribéry announced his international retirement. Griezmann was ever-present in Brazil last summer.
Forward: Alexandre Lacazette (27)
Another at the vanguard of Lyon's rediscovered savoir-faire, Lacazette looks a safe bet for 2018 if his performances in 2014/15 are anything to go by. Zlatan Ibrahimović is among the forwards floundering in his wake in the Ligue 1 top scorers' chart. "He could be stronger than Benzema," reckons former Lyon and France man Bernard Lacombe, no mean striker himself.
Forward: Karim Benzema (30)
Benzema's all-round talents are well known, and his accumulation of goals for Real Madrid and France (25) has added to the anticipation that he might be one of his country's all-time greats. Fatherhood seems to have brought him more calm and dedication, and while he remains a man of few words – "I prefer to lead by my actions," he says – he is becoming a leader.