Didier Deschamps insists France have ‘no anxiety’ over injuries ahead of World Cup opener

France manager Didier Deschamps insists “there’s no anxiety” in his squad despite a large number of high-profile absences from the World Cup in Qatar.

Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema became the latest withdrawal from the tournament, joining the likes of Presnel Kimpembe, N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Christopher Nkunku on the reigning champions’ missing list.

Benzema should have been heading to the Middle East in the form of his life after winning the Champions League and La Liga with Real Madrid last season, scoring a phenomenal 44 goals in 46 games for Los Blancos.

But the 34-year-old had been struggling with a thigh problem since October and has played less than half an hour of football in Real’s last six games.

“I’ve got 25 players in my squad. I’m convinced I have the efficient number of players to be able to deal with the challenges we face,” Deschamps said on their eve of France’s opening game against Australia on Tuesday.

“Before [in previous tournaments] we had 22, 23. Now it is 26 and we are at 25. There are lots of possibilities, lots of players on the bench and therefore I believe we have everything we need.

“There’s no apprehension. We have done everything possible. There’s no anxiety, everyone is calm and there are cool heads.”

Deschamps admitted Les Bleus were now without some of their bigger characters but believes those who remain have not been too badly affected.

HOW FRANCE QUALIFIED FOR WORLD CUP 2022: (Group D) March 24, 2021. France 1 (Griezmann 19′) Ukraine 1 (Sydorchuk 57′): The world champions took a deserved lead courtesy of a fine Antoine Griezmann finish, only for the Ukraine to equalise via a big deflection that wrong-footed goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. France attacker Olivier Giroud said: “When you don’t score the second goal against a team defending very well with determination … then it’s hard.” AFP

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“You think I can just click my fingers and someone can say ‘OK, I will be a leader, I will give pep talks and lead the squad to victory’? No, it’s something that comes with time,” he said.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, it can’t happen overnight, but we have what we need. We have enough players who are able to stimulate, get others going, talk in the dressing rooms, on the pitch, on the sidelines.

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“But there are other types of leadership, it’s not just about speaking. If it is speaking to blow hot air then it’s not really worth it. It’s important that each player is a leader in their position, then we’ll see what they are made of on the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Australia coach Graham Arnold said on Monday he refuses to even mention the word France, let alone any of their players, as his outsiders prepare for their opener against the reigning champions

Even without Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante and centre-back Presnel Kimpembe, France are full of global stars, led by Kylian Mbappe.

Australia beat Peru to clinch World Cup spot

Andrew Redmayne of Australia reacts after saving a penalty during the shootout in the 2022 World Cup Intercontinental playoff against Peru at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on June 13, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Australia booked their place to the global finals by winning the shootout 5-4. Getty Images

But Arnold doesn’t want his players to get overawed by illustrious opponents and has tried to present the French as faceless positions with specific strengths and attributes rather than star individuals.

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“It’s not being disrespectful at all but I’ve hardly mentioned the word France and I’ve hardly mentioned any players’ names,” said the Socceroos coach.

“They all play in positions, the players know who they are but it’s about identifying those players’ strengths and it’s one against one.

“There’s 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts and it’s a fight. It’s our job to go out there tomorrow to show them who we are as a nation.”

Captain and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan said it was about finding the right balance in their approach.

“The biggest focus for us has been the mentality and the boys have grasped the mentality: we go into every game, whoever we’re facing, with the right amount of respect,” he said.

“We don’t underestimate anybody and we don’t over-respect anyone and that’s a real challenge.”

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