Nations League: Oliver Giroud, Ousmane Dembele back in France squad as Didier Deschamps admits Paul Pogba doubts
Giroud returns to France squad in place of injured Karim Benzema ahead of UEFA Nations League double-header Austria and Denmark next week.
Paris: Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele were both included in the final France squad before the World Cup on Thursday, as coach Didier Deschamps dealt with the absence of a host of big names for a UEFA Nations League double header and faced up to the possibility of Paul Pogba missing the World Cup.
Juventus midfielder Pogba — who scored in France’s 4-2 win over Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final — faces a race against time to be fit for this year’s tournament in Qatar after undergoing knee surgery last week.
“He will do everything to come back quickly, without taking risks. But nobody today can say yes or no with certainty,” Deschamps told reporters in Paris. “The number one condition is that he has recovered from his injury. I have never taken a player to a tournament if he has not fully recovered.
“I don’t have the answers today but I would never take a player — whoever that might be — if there is a chance he is not fit for the first match,” added Deschamps.
“He will not come if he is not ready. There is no point coming just for the sake of it. Even he doesn’t want that.”
France start their World Cup campaign against Australia on November 22.
Karim Benzema is also sidelined for this month’s matches with a thigh injury suffered playing for Real Madrid.
With Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante recovering from injury, Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe sidelined, and Bayern Munich duo Kingsley Coman and Lucas Hernandez also ruled out, Deschamps has brought back some familiar faces and handed a first chance to others for France’s games against Austria and Denmark.
Giroud, who will be 36 come the World Cup, is rewarded for a fine start to the season at AC Milan with a recall, while Dembele comes into the squad for the first time since June last year, when he limped out of the European Championship.
There are first call-ups for the Eintracht Frankfurt striker Randal Kolo Muani as well as Monaco centre-back Benoit Badiashile and his club colleague Youssouf Fofana.
Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris are among the six players in the squad who featured in the 2018 World Cup final.
France host Austria in Paris on September 22 before playing Denmark in Copenhagen three days later.
While the matches serve as preparation for the World Cup, France are bottom of Nations League A, Group 1 so need points from their final two games to avoid relegation to League B.
They won the last edition of the Nations League last year.
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham United/ENG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Mike Maignan (AC Milan/ITA)
Defenders: Benoit Badiashile (Monaco), Jonathan Clauss (Marseille), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan/ITA), Jules Kounde (Barcelona/ESP), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid/ESP), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich/GER), William Saliba (Arsenal/ENG), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich/GER), Raphael Varane (Manchester United/ENG)
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid/ESP), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus/ITA), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid/ESP)
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona/ESP), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan/ITA), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/ESP, on loan from Barcelona/ESP), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig/GER)
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