With the World Cup dust settled – after one of the best finals in history, in our view – it is now worth looking at which up-and-coming names may be in the conversation for the next edition. That is to say, if their careers continue on the same projection they are currently on. However, before looking at who will be the next set of players to chase a third star it is important to look at who will most likely longer be there.
The oldest starting players on this year’s team are Olivier Giroud (36), Hugo Lloris (35), Antoine Griezmann (31), N’Golo Kanté (31), Raphaël Varane (29) and Paul Pogba (29). Out of those players, it is safe to assume that Giroud, Lloris will not be back for the next World Cup in 4 years. Other players like Kanté and Griezmann may also be too past their prime to be effective that far away. Especially considering their all-action playing style.
Besides the young talent that took the field in this World Cup, France also has players who are on the cusp of going from youth prospect to top tier players such as: Maxence Caqueret, Wesley Fofana, Mathys Tel, Désiré Doué, Adrien Truffert, Rayan Cherki, Kouadio Koné, Sofiane Diop, Alban Lafont, Lucien Agoumé, Hugo Ekitiké, Malo Gusto and more. Any of these names could be called for the next World Cup, but when looking ahead this far in advance it can be difficult to forecast who will be still playing let alone in top form. Assuming these players reach their potential and are healthy, here are a few names that may fit into the next World Cup squad.
Young forwards playing at big clubs like Tel and Ekitiké are easy choices given their talent, but if you’re looking for a comparable replacement for France’s top goalscorer you won’t find him, yet. Currently, the closest thing would be Thuram. However, if Les Bleus are looking for something new, Rennes’ Amine Gouiri not only offers a different look than any other striker on the roster, but also has not reached his full potential at 22-years-old. The French forward is also one of the more interesting players to look out for as a future Les Bleus call-up. He is more of a creative forward than the traditional number 9 that a coach like Deschamps is used to. The Lyon academy product can also play in a wide attacking role and If used in the right system can create moments of magic. Currently 22-years-old, he will be in his prime come the next World Cup.
The future at Fullback:
While the Hernandez brothers and Jules Koundé have done a fine job, true fullbacks will always be needed in football. It just so happens there are two top prospects at left and right-back that are real standouts who may fit the bill.
At left-back, Adrien Truffert, another Rennes player, who quite possibly could have received a call for this World Cup if Didier Deschamps valued fullbacks, is one of the very best young players at the position. It would have been a bit of a surprise seeing as he has only one call-up, but based on his form not undeserved. Already making major contributions with Rennes, he is one of Ligue 1’s best youth prospects. The French left-back will be only 25 years old come the next World Cup. So, not only will he be prime age for the competition, but he has plenty of room to grow.
On the other side, Malo Gusto is possibly one of the best young players at right-back in the world. The Lyon academy product may be considered an “attacking” right-back, his defencive abilities are notable. The Lyon product has been linked to some of the biggest clubs in the world and at 19 years old it is not a stretch to say that this is only the beginning of his rise.
The future of the midfield:
There is a lot of hype around many French midfielders right now, and rightfully so, but one that may fit as an excellent replacement in the midfield is Enzo Le Fée. As good as Griezmann was out of position in the midfield in the World Cup, Lorient’s number 10 is special. He has been one of the breakout stars for Lorient this season and has put himself on the map of players to watch for Les Bleus and “big” clubs alike. The French midfielder is versatile and can be deployed almost anywhere in the midfield. He is definitely someone who is already on the radar of the Les Bleus staff. He has competed in the tricolour shirt at the youth level and even received a call-up for the French Olympic team. He may not yet be the French phenom that everyone is talking about, but with everything he brings to the table he may soon be.
France is full of young talent when it comes to central defenders. So much so that Didier Deschamps even deploys them as fullbacks. At 27-years-old Presnel Kimpembe is still in the conversation as one of France’s premier defenders. However, there is a young center-back who has the potential to be great. That player is Wesley Fofana. It only took one season in Ligue 1 for the young defender to be noticed abroad. Since then he has been one of the best all around young center backs in the Premier League. Center-back has become one of France’s strongest positions, but as a defender the Chelsea newcomer offers everything. If he continues with his current trajectory he will definitely be someone who can challenge for a starting place in the next World Cup.
Replacing France’s most-capped is no easy task, but France does have some very good options to do so. Mike Maignan is the obvious choice, and for good reason. He has seen great success over the last seasons and he shows no signs of slowing down. However, 23-year-old, 1.96m-tall Alban Lafont is someone to keep an eye on. Though not yet the caliber of Maignan, he shows real signs of great potential.
There are countless players who could be the “next big thing” or players who progressed past where we thought they would before next World Cup. Others who were recently overlooked like Martin Terrier, Benjamin Bourigeaud and Allan Saint-Maximin could very well finally get their chance. Sadly, there are always players like Jonathan Clauss who may fall out of that small window of time in their prime to get their chance at a World Cup.
However, supporters can take solace in the fact that Les Bleus are in the unique position in that there is no “golden generation”. The next journey to the World Cup may feature one of France’s strongest rosters in history, at least on paper. Many of which were on the field during the second half of the World Cup final. Players who felt what it was like to climb all the way to the top of the mountain just to taste defeat. However, the connection from this team to the next is secured through players like Kylian Mbappé who have won and lost in the World Cup. Whoever joins Les Bleus in the months and years to come joins an experienced team who knows how to navigate a World Cup and all the newcomers will have to do, is play their part.
GFFN | Tony DesRois