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France’s 2018 World Cup Squad: Where are they now?

France's 2018 World Cup Squad: Where are they now?

France has been among the most successful football nations in the last twenty years, winning two World Cups.

Now the country is on the brink of history, becoming potentially the first back-to-back winner in the World Cup in 60 years. They face off against Argentina in the final on Sunday.

Many of the players have grown in stature since 2018, taking the world of football by storm and becoming some of the most sought-after stars in the sport. Kylian Mbappe, , and Antoine Griezmann have all become household names due to their performances in the echelon of Europe's top leagues.

Let's take a closer look at where the players of that 2018 squad are now, many of which look to repeat as World Cup champions in 2022.

Karim Benzema

Let's start with the player who wasn't in Russia in 2018, King Karim Benzema.

Karim Benzema — the goal-scoring hero of Real Madrid's 2021/22 Champions League glory and subsequent 2022 Ballon d'Or winner — was noticeably absent from France's 2018 World Cup team for his alleged role in helping blackmail former teammate Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape in 2015.

By 2021, French national team coach Didier Deschamps had no choice but to call up Benzema for the Euros, six years after France made Benzema an outcast. Switzerland kicked France out in the Round of 16 on penalties despite a Benzema brace.

Deschamps again selected Benzema for his 26-man World Cup roster for . But Benzema's bad luck struck again. The player pulled out of France's squad just before the competition due to a thigh issue that was reported to take three weeks to recuperate. Benzema fully recovered by early December, and Deschamps never selected a replacement for the striker, meaning the forward could've played in the knockout stages. But Deschamps's intransigence sent Benzeman on early vacation.

Now that France has advanced to the final, Benzema could make a shock return to face Argentina. Once again, it's up to France's boss. With in good form, it seems highly unlikely.

Kylian Mbappe

Undoubtedly the breakout star of the 2018 World Cup, Kylian Mbappe scored four in Russia as a 19-year-old. He also became the youngest player to score in a World Cup final since , claiming the World Cup Young Player Award. The rest is history.

Against Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League last season, he became the youngest player in history to score 20 Champions League goals at 21 years and 355 days. In November 2022, he became the youngest player to net 40 Champions League strikes, breaking his teammate Lionel Messi's record.

Still just 23 years old, the French attacker is on the verge of winning his second and France's first back-to-back World Cup titles.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba played a pivotal role in the midfield on France's 2018 World Cup squad. Since then, Pogba has gone on to become a standout maestro at Manchester United. He became the club's most expensive midfielder in football history at $116 million.

However, a string of injuries and a lack of trophies in his second stint at United compelled Pogba to head back to Juventus on a free transfer.

29-year-old Pogba expected to represent France at the 2022 World Cup but suffered a meniscus injury prior to the tournament. He expects to kickstart his second spell at Turin in the new year.

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann was one of the stand-out players for France in its 2018 World Cup triumph. His club career took some missteps after Russia, though.

After a stellar first term at Atletico Madrid, the forward signed for Barcelona in 2019. However, he never quite reached the superb form he showed at Atletico and returned to Madrid after two seasons. He's been on a resurrection tour ever since, at least for France.

The former attacking player has reinvented himself for Deschamps's side in the midfield position. He's filled in the gap for the injured Kante, tracking back, breaking up plays, and creating chances for Les Bleus in Qatar, where he has three assists.

Olivier Giroud

He may not have scored during the entire World Cup 2018, but Giroud has more than made up for it at the 2022 edition. The 36-year-old striker has scored four goals in Qatar, making him France's all-time top scorer.

The so-called “go-kart,” as teammate Benzema once ridiculed Giroud to his-own superior ‘”Formula 1,” has a track record of goal-scoring success at every team he's played for. Giroud scored over 100 goals in six seasons for Arsenal before leaving for Chelsea in 2018, where he won the Champions League.

The 36-year-old has scored 22 times in 55 total appearances for AC Milan since 2021, helping the club to the first Scudetto since 2011. Can he win another World Cup with France?

N'Golo Kanté

N'Golo Kanté was the engine of the midfield during France's 2018 run. No one made more interceptions at the tournament than Kante. He also led the team in most passes and most possession won.

The 2020/21 Champions League winner and two-time Premier League champion, unfortunately, was absent due to injury along with double pivot agent Paul Pogba at World Cup 2022.

Somehow, France has returned to the World Cup finals in Qatar, thanks largely to the energetic heroics of Griezmann, whom Pogba jokingly dubbed “GriezmannKante.”

Hugo Lloris

Hugo Lloris lived up to his dependable role as the anchor of the French defense at the 2018 World Cup. The 35-year-old goalkeeper has been the first-choice for his country since 2012, becoming the team's most-capped player of all time in Qatar, where he continues to make big-time saves.

The experienced shot-stopper will be hoping to become the first-ever captain to lift the World Cup consecutively in Qatar.

Raphael Varane

Serene in duel and inside the box, Raphel Varane's 2018 defending was on point for France. It's no surprise that the center-back also played a key role in Madrid's Champions League title

Varane is one of four former Real Madrid players to have won a World Cup and Champions League in the same year, finishing 7th in the 2018 Ballon d'Or.

Varane has once again proved to be France's most valuable defender at the 2022 World Cup. If Les Bleus win in Qatar, Varane will be the first player ever to win two World Cups and two or more Champions League titles.

Benjamin Pavard

He ripped THAT goal of the tournament against Argentina in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup as a 22-year-old. This time around, Benjamin Pavard is not having the World Cup he set out to, with criticism from France teammates and disagreements with coach Deschamps for his poor performances. He's also been benched by Noussair Mazraoui at Bayern.

However, the defender will be on the hunt to redeem himself in the World Cup final should he make a substitution appearance. All it'll take is another one of these blasts from outside the box — no pressure!

Samuel Umtiti

Unlike some of his other 2018 teammates, Samuel Umtiti's career fell off that remarkable World Cup run with long-term injury problems.

The French center-back boldly decided to postpone surgery for conservative treatment until after the tournament in Russia, which ultimately sacrificed his time at Barcelona.

He powered home the header against Belgium, which sent France to the 2018 final, but it came at the cost of his career. The 29-year-old now plays for Lecce in Italy on loan and has yet to make an appearance.

Lucas Hernandez

Left-back Lucas Hernandez featured in all matches during France's run to the 2018 World Cup title. In 2019, he left Atletico Madrid and signed for Bavarian giants Bayern Munich in a club/Bundesliga record €80 million deal.

However, the Frenchman missed most of the 2022 World Cup after suffering a cruciate ligament rupture against Australia in the team's opening match against Australia. Thankfully, his younger brother Theo Hernandez has filled in and become the star of the show. Theo scored his first goal against Morocco in the semifinals.

Blaise Matuidi

Blaise Matuidi formed an important core of the midfield machine that was Pogba and Kante during the World Cup 2018 run.

The year before, the former PSG-man signed for Serie A giants Juventus, whom he helped lead to three consecutive Scudetto. He won the most matches for club and country in 2018 (48 matches) than any other player in 2018.

Matuidi parted Turin for Inter Miami at the beginning of the 2020 season on a free transfer, playing 47 matches for Beckham's squad. Matuidi was last seen joining the French dressing room celebrations in Qatar after the national team booked their place at the final in Qatar.

Photo: Twitter/@OptaJean

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