Where are the players three years after the seum controversy at the 2018 World Cup

The France team and Belgium face each other this Thursday in Turin in the semifinals of the League of Nations. A little more than three years after the duel won by the Blues at the 2018 World Cup (1-0), the two selections have changed a lot even if many executives remain.

What if all these « seum » stories disappeared once and for all. Like Didier Deschamps, the France team will have to forget the blessed semi-final of the 2018 World Cup to attack in the best way that of the League of Nations against Belgium. The departure of some iconic players in the two groups could help turn the page before the clash played in Turin on Thursday evening (8:45 p.m.). Twelve of the 27 players in the shock in Russia will miss the call of Final 4 in Italy.

« There has always been a rivalry because they are border countries. It is the same that we can have with Italy or Spain, estimated the French technician Monday in front of the press. Obviously for them in 2018, like us, they had the possibility of being in the final. We were the ones who were in the final before being world champions. But it’s not Thursday’s game that will change anything. rivalry has always been there but it is healthy and sporty. « 

Absent on the French side: Samuel Umtiti, Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kanté, Steven Nzonzi, Corentin Tolisso and Olivier Giroud.

Absent on the Belgian side: Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens.

Umtiti is no longer there to break the process

Unsurprisingly, the cages of the France and Belgium team will be respectively guarded by the irremovable Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian Real Madrid will be keen to show who the better team is.

In addition to the package of Thomas Meunier, injured and who left the gathering of the Red Devils on Monday, it is especially in central defense that two emblematic players have disappeared from the two selections.

In difficulty at Barça and embarrassed by repeated physical problems, Samuel Umtiti has not played for the Blues since June 2019. The only scorer of the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup will no longer be there to scare Belgian fans .

On the side of the selection of overseas Quiévrain also the defensive sector has evolved with the retirement of Vincent Kompany during the summer of 2020. From the trio of central defenders used in 2018, Roberto Martinez will nevertheless be able to count on the veterans Toby Alderweireld (32 years old). ) and Jan Vertonghen (34).

Sacred changes in the midfield

Indispensable to the Blues and a real darling of the public, N’Golo Kanté will miss the duel against Belgium. Blame it on a positive Covid-19 test last week on the sidelines of a Champions League match. After weighing the pros and cons, the French staff and Didier Deschamps did not summon him to Clairefontaine. Despite the rumor of a potential return for the Euro, Blaise Matuidi does seem to have said goodbye to the France team. Handyman in selection, the former PSG and Juve gave up on the Blues when he joined MLS and Inter Miami from David Beckham in August 2020.

Having entered the game in the last minutes of the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup before retaining the meager French advantage, Steven Nzonzi and Corentin Tolisso do not appear in the French group for the Final 4 of the League of Nations either. The first has not been recalled to the Blues since November 2020 and has just signed for a club in Qatar while the second has a calf injury and has not played with Bayern since the end of August.

Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembélé against Griezmann in 2018
Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembélé against Griezmann in 2018 © Icon Sport

If important players of the tricolor group in 2018 will not be there this Thursday in Turin, several big names of the Belgian team have left the international level. A few months after the World Cup, Marouane Fellaini left European football to go into exile in China. One of the most famous long-haired footballers also announced his international retirement in March 2019. Mousa Dembélé, who left to conquer the Chinese championship in January 2019, also chose to stop the selection in March 2019.

Despite a sawtooth club career (passages in Monaco and Anderlecht), the midfielder of Basaksehir has long retained the confidence of Roberto Martinez, including during Euro 2021, before missing the September rally and this Nations League Final 4. But other players like Axel Witsel are still very present. And the Belgian midfielder from Dortmund assures him, finished with the memory of the World Cup: « It’s out of my head, it’s behind us. 2018 was 2018. »

Giroud replaced by Benzema

Silent throughout the 2018 World Cup, Olivier Giroud remains the second highest scorer in the history of the France team with 46 goals. But that did not allow him to appear in the lists of Didier Deschamps after the Euro.

The boss of the Blues does not definitively close the door to a return but prefers Karim Benzema for the moment. When we know the form of the Madrilenian at the moment, not sure that the Belgians gain in the change.

Karrim Benzema and Olivier Giroud during Euro 2021
Karrim Benzema and Olivier Giroud during Euro 2021 © AFP

Roberto Martinez, he has an almost complete attack. Of the players on the pitch in 2018, only Dries Mertens will miss the reunion with the French neighbor.

The 34-year-old striker has only just played his first six minutes of the season with Napoli this Sunday after a left shoulder injury. Barring a last-minute absence, Romelu Lukaku should well constitute the biggest Belgian threat for the defense of the Blues.

Jean-Guy Lebreton Journalist RMC Sport

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