With chaos at the administrative level, a quarrel between Karim Benzema and Didier Deschamps and a riot about the captaincy, it is old-fashioned restless around the French national team. A look at the troubles at the opponent of Orange.
On January 7, Deschamps seemed to sign for a quiet run-up to the European Championship qualifying series. Despite some criticism – many believe that he plays too defensively with perhaps the best team in the world – the successful coach extended his contract up to and including the 2026 World Cup.
A few days later, little was left of the relative calm. An investigation was launched into the 81-year-old federation chairman Noël Le Graët, who was accused of transgressive behavior by several women. Football Association FFF suspended him pending the results of the investigation.
Immediately there were questions about the contract extension of Deschamps, who had signed with the approval of Le Graët. The FFF hastened to emphasize that the contract would remain valid. The union has now definitively put aside Le Graët.
The signing of Deschamps did not go completely smoothly. Le Graët had caused a riot around the contract extension by making it clear in hard terms that Zinedine Zidane could forget a job as national coach. The public humiliation of the football icon led Le Graët to criticism from Kylian Mbappé and leading former internationals.
Karim Benzema and Didier Deschamps in October 2021. Photo: Getty Images
Feud between Benzema and ‘clown’ Deschamps
In the meantime it became clear that Deschamps has to build a new French team. Record international and captain Hugo Lloris and defender Raphaël Varane (who is not yet thirty years old) decided to no longer make themselves available and to make room for a new generation.
They thus followed the example of the most talked about Frenchman of recent months: Karim Benzema. The Ballon d’Or winner dropped out with an injury just before the World Cup and decided to retire as an international not long after.
It marked the start of a public row, with both Benzema and Deschamps throwing mud. Deschamps stated in an interview that Benzema could still have taken action at the World Cup and left the tournament on his own initiative, but according to the top striker, that is not true.
It is unclear exactly what 35-year-old Benzema thinks about it, but he showed on social media earlier this month that he thinks Deschamps is a clown. “What guts,” he wrote.
Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann at France’s training on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
End of Griezmann as an international?
We are not there yet with the Graët case and the feud between Benzema and Deschamps. Due to the departure of Lloris, a new captain had to be appointed recently and that also led to a riot.
Deschamps announced on Tuesday that not Antoine Griezmann, but star player Mbappé will take over the band. “He can not only play football well, but also communicate excellently,” said the national coach.
French media unpacked a day later with reports of an angry Griezmann. The attacker with the pink coupe would have long thought that he would become the captain, but has to make do with a role as reserve captain. The 117-time international would even have considered thanking the French team out of dissatisfaction, but that was not confirmed by Deschamps on Thursday.
The national coach acknowledged that Griezmann was disappointed when he heard that Mbappé, eight years his junior, was preferred. But that wouldn’t have lasted long. “We celebrated Griezmann’s 32nd birthday with the entire selection on Tuesday,” Deschamps said, emphasizing that everything is fine now.
Despite all the riots, France is the favorite for the match against the Orange, which starts at 8.45 p.m. on Friday. A game against Ireland will follow for the French on Monday. The Netherlands then plays at home against Gibraltar.
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