They had parted on the heartbreaking outcome of the World Cup final. Three months after seeing Lionel Messi’s Argentina lift the trophy before their eyes in the Lusail stadium, in Qatar, the players of the French football team will meet again. At least, a good part of them.

The coach of the Blues, Didier Deschamps, unveiled, Thursday, March 16, the list of 23 players selected to face the Netherlands and go to Ireland – respectively on March 24 and 27 – on the occasion of the first qualifying matches for Euro 2024. In addition to regulars Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann or Olivier Giroud, the Basque technician called up three novices, including Khéphren Thuram and Wesley Fofana.

“These two back-to-school games are going to be a tough start,” the coach announced at the group’s announcement press conference. Quarter-finalists in Qatar, the Oranje were eliminated on penalties by Argentina, future world champion, and will be keen to make an impression from the start in a strong group. Also, the tricolor technician chose to re-enlist with eighteen of the twenty-five “globalists”, to ensure the continuity of the team. “Nothing is set in stone,” he insisted. Choices had to be made, but no one is doomed. »

For this new adventure, “DD”, extended at the beginning of January to his post until July 2026 – year of the next World Cup, co-organized by the United States, Mexico and Canada -, had to compose without several of the executives, crowned champions of the world in Russia, in 2018, then finalists of the last edition, in Qatar in 2022.

Goalkeeper and captain of the Blues, Hugo Lloris, 36, announced his international retirement in early January, followed by his understudy, Steve Mandanda, 37. Had followed vice-captain and central defender Raphaël Varane, only 29 years old. “There comes a time when you have to know how to pass the hand,” justified the first, record holder for the number of caps in the France team (145).

“Sporting logic” and the need to prepare for the future

“With the end of the international career of several players, the group had to be rejuvenated”, admitted Didier Deschamps, insisting both on “sporting logic” and on the need “to prepare for the medium term”. To compensate for these departures, he renewed his squad, calling three newcomers to the selection: Lensois goalkeeper Brice Samba, Chelsea defender Wesley Fofana and OGC Nice midfielder Khéphren Thuram.

If, as goalkeeper, the Milanese Mike Maignan – absent from the World Cup due to an injury – leaves with a head start to succeed Hugo Lloris, a new hierarchy must take shape in the cages, where the candidates of value do not miss.

In defence, where “a lot of players could claim to be on the list”, the France coach chose to call up Wesley Fofana, whose performances with the Blues had taken him to the gates of the plane for Qatar. Now deprived of the “taulier” Varane, the Blues will have to recompose their central hinge. And if all the players – Wesley Fofana, Ibrahima Konaté, Jules Koundé, William Saliba and Dayot Upamecano – apply for it, Didier Deschamps has clearly explained that this would not be the case for Benjamin Pavard.

The former revelation of the 2018 World Cup had a complicated last World Cup, to the point of raising fears for his place in the France team. “He might look doomed, but he’s here. And first on a right-back position, “insisted the boss of the Habs, explaining that he had” discussed a lot with [the Munich resident] before, during and after the World Cup “.

Who will take the captain’s armband?

A year after bringing together Théo and Lucas Hernandez in the blue jersey, Didier Deschamps did it again on Thursday, calling Khéphren Thuram for the first time, who thus joined his eldest Marcus. “It’s not more difficult or easier to have two brothers, they can have different characters”, warned the one who was crowned world and European champion alongside the father of the two players, Lilian Thuram. At 21, the international hope will discover the blue group, he who has become this season one of the best midfielders in Ligue 1.

The French coach also chose to once again trust veteran Olivier Giroud in attack, citing his “level and exceptional experience”, in view of the first qualifying matches for the next Euro. Deprived of Karim Benzema, who formalized his international retirement after missing the World Cup with an injury at the end of preparation, Didier Deschamps did not want to add fuel to the fire after the cryptic messages from Madrid on social networks.

It remains for the coach who will now continue his journey on the French bench without the presence of Noël Le Graët, ex-president of the French Football Federation, to appoint a new captain. Among the candidates, Kylian Mbappé, undisputed leader of the France team, seems to be essential. “I have some names, obviously Kylian is one of them, but it will go through discussions with them before I make my decision,” insisted “DD”. The first mission of the new captain will be to revive a group after its disappointment in the final. Calling to “feed” on the Qatari experience “without living with the past either”, the French coach opened the new chapter of the France team on Thursday.