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World Cup preview: Can defending champions France repeat without key players?

Here’s a look at France ahead of the competition.

France v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2020: Round of 16
Kylian Mbappe of France was crushed after been failured a penalty during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between France and Switzerland at National Arena on June 28, 2021 in Bucharest, Romania.
Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images

There are 32 teams chasing a World Cup title when the 2022 competition gets underway in Qatar, but only one team will be entering the tournament looking to repeat. That team is France. The 2018 champions bring back most of their key players from that title run, along with some massive new additions.

France World Cup 2022 Preview

Odds to win World Cup: +700

Brazil and Argentina are ahead of France according to the oddsmakers but the defending champions might have the deepest team. If there are major injuries, France is best equipped to overcome them. There’s some serious star power with this squad, even as Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante don’t make the trip to Qatar due to injuries.

Odds to win/advance from Group D: -225 to win, -1400 to advance

There won’t be much resistance to France in the group, with Denmark being the only other truly established team in the running. Australia has pulled a surprise now and then but really won’t be a factor here. Tunisia simply doesn’t have the talent on paper to keep up with France. -225 might actually be good value given the other teams in the group.


Even with Pogba and Kante out, the expectation is to at least be in a position to win the whole thing again. That likely means a semifinal berth at a minimum. There won’t be many hurdles initially in the group stage, so that will give France a chance to find their optimal lineup.

Key player: Benjamin Pavard

Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema need to score goals, but France don’t have a lot of experience in the middle of the pitch. That means a player like Pavard, who is versatile enough to play multiple positions, becomes very important. He’s likely going to act like a holding midfielder but can also double as an outside midfielder or wing back. His flexibility will be key for France figuring out their best configuration.