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Griezmann & Giroud out, Saliba & Camavinga in: How will France line up at the 2026 World Cup?

20:00 GMT+3 19/12/2022
France World Cup 2026 GFX
Les Bleus may have come up agonisingly short in their bid to defend their crown in Qatar, but their window to challenge is far from being shut

And so it wasn't to be for France. Brazil in 1962 remain the last team to successfully win back-to-back World Cups after Didier Deschamps' team lost on penalties to Argentina in the climax of Sunday's dramatic final in Qatar.

Les Bleus' bid to back up their victory in Russia four years ago with another was a valiant one, but given the recent struggles that defending champions have had at the World Cup, that they even made it out of the groups was a decent achievement!

The good news for France fans is that their conveyor belt of talent is showing few signs of slowing down, and whether it is Deschamps or another manager who takes them forward, they will continue to head into major tournaments among the favourites to go all the way.

The next target will be winning a first European Championship since 2000 in Germany in 18 months' time, but soon enough all eyes will be on the next World Cup and doing it all again in 2026.

But which of the current players will still be around when the World Cup circus descends on the United States, Mexico and Canada? GOAL has had a go at predicting France's line-up for the next global competition...

  • Mike Maignan France 2022

    GK: Mike Maignan

    Hugo Lloris will be 38 when the next World Cup kicks-off, and so the goalkeeper with the most appearances in the tournament's history has likely played his final match on the global stage.

    If not for injury, Maignan would have been his primary back-up in Qatar, but the Milan shot-stopper should be elevated to become France's No.1 pretty soon, and at 27, it's a job he could hold down for a decent amount of time, too.

    If for any reason Maignan doesn't make it to 2026 as the starter, then alternatives could be Nantes' Alban Lafont, who is uncapped but was called-up to the senior squad in September, or Leeds United's Illan Meslier.

  • Pierre Kalulu AC Milan 2022-23

    RB: Pierre Kalulu

    With Benjamin Pavard and Jules Kounde having shared right-back duties in Qatar, France have shown that they are not afraid of playing versatile defenders at full-back, and that trend could yet continue through to 2026.

    Pavard will be 30 and Kounde 27 when the next World Cup gets going, but we're betting on the younger man in Kalulu (22), who continues to impress for Milan and is deserving of a look in at international level in the not-too-distant future.

    Another who is likely to come into contention is highly-rated Lyon teenager Malo Gusto, while his club-mate Sael Kumbedi scored twice as France Under-17s won the European Championship during the summer and is a name to watch over the next few years.

  • William Saliba France 2022

    CB: William Saliba

    Premier League fans were probably surprised to see Saliba play so few minutes in Qatar, but at just 21, the Arsenal man still has plenty of time on his hands to make himself a regular starter for France.

    He faces quite the fight, however, with a number of his team-mates from Didier Deschamps' 2022 squad likely to still be in contention in 2026.

    Raphael Varane is perhaps an old 29 given the number of games he's played his career, but the likes of Ibrahima Konate (23) and Axel Disasi (24) should still be pushing for international honours.

    RB Leipzig's Mohamed Simakan (22) has, meanwhile, been impressing in the Bundesliga, while both Pavard and Kounde are options at centre-back as well as at right-back.

  • Wesley Fofana Chelsea 2022-23

    CB: Wesley Fofana

    The fight to play as the left-sided centre-back is set to be just as intense as it is on the right, but we're backing Fofana to rekindle the partnership he had with Saliba when both were breaking through at Saint-Etienne.

    Chelsea star Fofana may well have been in Qatar if not for injury, but he will still only be 24 when the next World Cup kicks-off, so should have plenty of tournament appearances left in him.

    Another who missed the tournament through injury was Presnel Kimpembe, who at 27 does not feel done with the international game, while Dayot Upamecano (24) will fancy himself to justify selection for another World Cup too.

    Throw in Monaco's Benoit Badiashile (21), as well as impressive Paris Saint-Germain teenager El Chadaille Bitshiabu (17), and whoever is managing Les Bleus in 2026 will not be short of defensive options.

  • Theo Hernandez France 2022

    LB: Theo Hernandez

    It is rare that two brothers find themselves fighting it out for one starting role in an international team, but that feels like where we are heading with the Hernandez siblings and France's left-back position.

    Lucas Hernandez's injury in France's opening game against Australia opened the door for Theo to step into the line-up, and the Milan man was superb thereafter, combining well in attack with Kylian Mbappe.

    Twenty months younger than Lucas, we are going for Theo to again get the nod in 2026.

  • Eduardo Camavinga France 2022

    CM: Eduardo Camavinga

    Camavinga was rushed into action as a reserve left-back by France at his first major tournament in Qatar, but by 2026 we expect the Real Madrid man to be well-established in central midfield.

    He will still only be 23 when the next World Cup kicks-off, and it would be a huge surprise were he not to be one of the first names on the team sheet by then given his remarkable talent.

    There are others who could push him, however. Paul Pogba (29) and Adrien Rabiot (27) will both feel they have another World Cup cycle in them, while 17-year-old Desire Doue looks set to follow Camavinga and be the next top-tier talent to emerge from Rennes' academy.

  • Aurelien Tchouameni France 2022

    CM: Aurelien Tchouameni

    Despite being just 22, Tchouameni seems to have locked himself in as a first-choice pick in midfield for France, and it would take a special talent to force the Real Madrid man out of the line-up before 2026.

    That special talent might just, however, be about to emerge, with Warren Zaire-Emery regarded as being one of European football's most talented teenagers, having made his PSG debut at the age of 16 to become the club's youngest-ever player.

    It would be a push for him to become a starter for France before his 20th birthday, but the talent level is certainly there.

    Others who will fancy their chances of at least making the squad include Lyon's Maxence Caqueret (22), Aston Villa's Boubacar Kamara (23) and Rennes youngster Lesley Ugochukwu (18).

  • Ousmane Dembele France 2022

    RW: Ousmane Dembele

    Despite his disappointing display in the final, Dembele's career resurrection seems complete after forcing his way into the France team with his performances for Barcelona, and at 25 there is no reason why he cannot enjoy at least another five years at the top of the game.

    Staying fit and focused will be the biggest battle for Dembele, but if he is able to, then he has shown that there are few wingers who can match him when it comes to attacking output.

    Potential alternatives should Dembele fall by the wayside include Bayer Leverkusen's Moussa Diaby (23), who continues to be a shining light in the Bundesliga, and Rayan Cherki (19), who is regarded as the best player to emerge from Lyon's academy since Karim Benzema and has begun to show why in the first team.

  • Christopher Nkunku RB Leipzig 2022-23

    AM: Christopher Nkunku

    Given the 18 months he has just enjoyed, the fact that Nkunku missed out on a place in Qatar due to an injury picked up the night before the France squad flew to the tournament felt particularly mean.

    The saving grace is that he will still only be 28 when the next World Cup comes around, and with a move to Chelsea seemingly all-but complete, he should have the chance to show what he can do at the very highest level over the next few years.

    We're backing him to come in for Antoine Griezmann, who will do well to get to another World Cup when he is 35.

  • Kingsley Coman France 2022

    LW: Kingsley Coman

    Coman might flatter to deceive at times, but there is an argument that the Bayern Munich winger is only just entering his prime, and could be set for his best years over the next World Cup cycle.

    He will be 30 when the 2026 tournament kicks-off, and so while we've picked him here, there is a chance that younger alternatives emerge.

    Crystal Palace's Michael Olise might have some way to go yet, but certainly has the talent to take the next step in his career over the coming years, while 18-year-old Mohamed-Ali Cho impressed for Angers last season and has maintained that form since joining Real Sociedad over the summer.

    There's a chance, too, that the man who played on the left of the attack in Qatar stays there for 2026...

  • Kylian Mbappe France Poland 2022 World Cup

    ST: Kylian Mbappe

    We know Mbappe isn't always keen on playing as a central striker (or pivot, as he likes to call it), but right now he seems the best option to lead the line in 2026.

    Karim Benzema has retired from international football and Olivier Giroud will be too old by then, leaving the 2022 Golden Boot winner as the likeliest option to lead the line four years later.

    Mbappe could, of course, remain out wide, which could potentially leave a gap for Mathys Tel to fill. The 17-year-old has already shown glimpses of his talent since joining Bayern Munich, and is certainly the most exciting French No.9 to have emerged in some time.

    Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram, who will be 27 and 28, respectively, at the next World Cup, showed that they can be long-term options with their performances off the bench in Qatar, while Rennes' Arnaud Kalimuendo (20) might also fancy his chances of pushing for a place in the squad, as will his club-mate Amine Gouiri (22).