RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) — France coach Didier Deschamps has freshened up his World Cup squad with some new faces as he keeps one eye on the future.
Young wingers Antoine Griezmann and Remy Cabella hope to get their chance to shine in France’s attack, while Morgan Schneiderlin offers some welcome cover in midfield.
Even if they don’t play much in Brazil, they’ll have picked up valuable experience ahead of the European Championship on home soil in 2016.
When winger Franck Ribery and midfielder Clement Grenier were ruled out of the World Cup at the last minute because of injuries, Cabella and Schneiderlin got an unexpected opening.
They were on the standby list and had almost no international experience, save for Cabella’s brief substitute appearance in the 4-0 win against Norway two weeks ago.
Griezmann was already in Deschamps’ 23-man squad, and has made a strong start to his international career, scoring three goals in three appearances, two of those as a substitute. Although the opposition was weak in last Sunday’s 8-0 rout of Jamaica, the way the Real Sociedad winger took his two chances was particularly impressive.
For the first, he controlled a loose ball in the penalty area, turned and coolly picked his spot. The second was even better, a classy backheel flick after making a front-post run.
Griezmann made his full debut against the Netherlands in March and had a quiet game, but one moment caught the eye and underlined his unselfish mentality.
Breaking into the penalty area, he had a chance to shoot from a tight angle. Instead, he paused and waited for striker Olivier Giroud to reach the penalty spot.
Even though his pass was slightly behind Giroud, the intention was clear.
With the World Cup squad announcement only two months away, Griezmann was on his debut and could have gone for glory in a bid to impress Deschamps. But he was more interested in setting up a teammate, and Giroud noticeably applauded the effort.
Deschamps, who has instilled a strong team ethic, doubtless appreciated it, too.
The 23-year-old Griezmann, who has excellent ball control and mobility, scored 16 league goals last season.
He had jeopardized his international future because of a past incident.
In October 2012, Griezmann was among a group of under-21 players who left their training camp and drove two hours to go to a Paris nightclub and back between two playoff games against Norway for the 2013 European Championship. France lost 5-3.
Griezmann apologized and served out his one-year suspension without complaint. Once it was over, Deschamps called him up straight away to face the Dutch.
The 24-year-old Cabella’s rise to prominence has been equally impressive, and he is expected to leave Montpellier for a bigger club next season.
Although nowhere the same level as Cristiano Ronaldo, he tries to play the same way as his idol, his lithe frame allowing him to make darting runs, his quick feet dazzling opponents.
He burst onto the scene during the 2011-12 season, helping Montpellier win the French league title ahead of Paris Saint-Germain in one of the greatest upsets in French football. Back then, he was a provider for Giroud, who finished as the league’s top scorer to earn a move to Premier League side Arsenal.
Cabella came into his own last season. The fact he scored 14 league goals from the wing in a team finishing three points above the relegation zone is testimony to his ability and determination.
Schneiderlin made a brave decision when he was 18 years old, moving to England despite playing just five games for second-division Strasbourg.
He joined Southampton, then in England’s second-tier Championship, and was relegated.
After one season in the drudgery of third-tier English football, he helped Saints gain back-to-back promotions and his performances in the Premier League over the past two seasons have drawn praise.
The 24-year-old Schneiderlin has good composure and is a tidy passer who chips in with the odd goal, scoring seven times over the past two league seasons.
He has left his options open with regards to a move this summer, and some good World Cup performances will further his chances of joining a big club.
France opens its campaign in Group E on Sunday against Honduras, before going on to face Switzerland and Ecuador.
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