FIFA World Cup 2022: Defending Champions France Aim To Emulate Brazil, Italy In Qatar
France star Kylian Mbappe after his team's arrival in Doha. (Image: Twitter)

Doha: It could well be a history-defining FIFA World Cup for France as Didier Deschamps and his boys aim to become only the third country ever to win successive titles after Italy (1934, 1938) and Brazil (1958, 1962).

Being the defending champions, there will be a lot of hope from France who will be making their 16th appearance in the World Cup, a competition they have won in 1998, 2018. Barring Denmark, there is little to suggest they would be troubled much by the likes of Australia and Tunisia — the other teams in Group D — as they seek a knockout berth.

As the French national team looks to defend its title, there’ll be a bit of similarity as the group they are in is weirdly familiar to the one they won in Russia in 2018.

They have Australia and Denmark again, with Tunisia replacing Peru this time around. The Danes, though, will enter the showpiece event having a slight edge on Les Bleus in previous matchups in the past year.

Having said that, France could still have an easy passage to the knockouts as Australia and Tunisia — the two relatively weaker sides in Group D — should not pose much of a threat to the two European powers.

Their run-up to the showpiece event in Qatar, however, has been marred by injuries. Key midfielder Paul Pogba was well on his way to complete recovery from a meniscus injury, but a thigh injury, as he looked set for a comeback, ruled him out of the quadrennial extravaganza.

And with N’Golo Kante too being ruled out due to a hamstring injury, Deschamps’s cup of misery was overflowing even before his boys had set foot on Qatar.

While Deschamps, who many suggest will have to make way for 1998 star Zinedine Zidane after the Qatar World Cup, may still have plenty of options, missing not one but two star players is reason enough to sweat even as the weather in Doha turns cold during this part of the year.

With injuries to the charismatic midfielders, Deschamps would be looking to the younger generation of French midfielders, led by 20-year-old Eduardo Camavinga, to make an impact.

Camavinga made a widely-publicised move to Real Madrid from Ligue 1 club Rennes in 2021 and has never looked back since. With this being Camavinga’s first World Cup, and with the youngster showing maturity beyond his years, Doha 2022 could well define his coming to the big stage.

Real Madrid’s talismanic striker Karim Benzema, while flying high on the back of a Ballon d’Or this season, has been hampered by muscle issues in the weeks leading up to the tournament.

It is here that the experience of Olivier Giroud — who was in France’s starting line-up in 2018 — could come in handy if his more illustrious counterpart isn’t fully fit just yet. The big question is if Benzema doesn’t figure in the starting line-up, is he fully fit to take on the rigours of the month-long tournament?

As Deschamps sweats over the fitness of his key striker, Giroud is just three goals shy of passing Thierry Henry as France’s all-time top scorer. With Kylian Mbappe and Benzema as goal threats, the big question is, can Giroud score enough goals to help his nation and write himself in the history books?

Les Bleus have been grossly unlucky when it comes to defending titles. Following their 1998 triumph, France couldn’t pass the group stage in the World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002.

And after they lost the infamous 2006 World Cup final to Italy — who claimed their fourth World Cup title defeating Les Bleus 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out after extra time had finished in a 1-1 draw — France failed to reach the knockout round in a disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa.

France begin their campaign against Australia on November 22. Will 2022 be the year for Les Bleus to buck that trend?