France boss Didier Deschamps insisted his side are far from "a shipwreck" after losing 2-0 to Denmark in their final game before heading to Qatar 2022.

Les Bleus will head into their World Cup trophy defence in November on the back of a poor Nations League campaign that saw them limp home third in Group A1.

Three losses in competitive matches since March means France have already matched their worst-ever record in that regard for a calendar year.

Having been tipped as strong contenders to be world champions again, France's second loss to the Danes in 2022 – ahead of a Group D battle between the teams in Qatar – has set off alarm bells among supporters.

Deschamps, who guided the team to glory at Russia 2018, has pushed back against suggestions his side are in crisis, pointing to both his decision to field a younger side and comparing France's form to other major rivals struggling for results.

"I don't think it's a shipwreck," he told TF1. "We had a lot of chances. We were weak, we made errors when playing out from the back.

"It is a young French side, which in the most part doesn't have players with experience at the very highest level. It is not a question of systems.

"We mustn't worry. Having the players with international experience back will do us good. There's no worrying. It's difficult for everyone.

"Yesterday, I was watching other games. There are other big teams losing as well. We shouldn't think of ourselves as better than them. We are going to have to fight."

Deschamps added: "I'm not going to darken the situation any further. This is a reminder of what will be waiting for us in two months."

Kylian Mbappe struggled in parts against Denmark, and looked to be nursing a minor knock at one point, but Deschamps was quick to assure that he is unconcerned about the Paris Saint-Germain forward's game.

"Kylian has done a lot of good things. He's also one of the few players to have played 90 minutes twice in three days," Deschamps said.

"He cannot do everything. He was more decisive three days ago, yes, but like the whole team, I am not worried about Kylian."

Didier Deschamps has called on Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier to let Kylian Mbappe "breathe a little bit" by resting the forward ahead of France's World Cup bid.

Mbappe has started all nine of PSG's Ligue 1 and Champions League matches this season, scoring 10 times.

The 23-year-old also played 90 minutes of France's 2-0 Nations League win over Austria on Thursday when opening the scoring before Olivier Giroud killed off the contest.

PSG have 11 matches to play before France head to Qatar, but Deschamps is hoping Mbappe is not used in all of those games.

"I know [Galtier] still wants to play Kylian. But from time to time, he needs to be able to breathe a little bit," Deschamps told Telefoot. 

"He needs to play a few minutes less. It won't hurt him – quite the contrary."

Mbappe led the way for shots (seven), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (10) against Austria, while no player created more chances (three).

After registering his 28th international goal in 58 caps, Mbappe admitted he felt "a lot more freedom" playing alongside fellow scorer Giroud than he does for club side PSG.

While Mbappe's World Cup spot is all but guaranteed, Giroud faces uncertainty over his position in the squad once Karim Benzema is back from injury.

Asked if he plans on naming Giroud in his travelling party for the World Cup, Deschamps said: "If I knew that... All I know is he is doing everything he can to be there."

France boss Didier Deschamps could be without Ousmane Dembele for Sunday's Nations League clash with Denmark after the Barcelona winger reported a calf problem.

The game in Copenhagen will see Deschamps make a number of changes, with the trip coming just two months before the teams meet again in the World Cup group stage.

France are eager to get the win, as that would guarantee they avoid relegation from the top tier of the Nations League, but Deschamps will not push anyone into playing.

"Ousmane felt discomfort in a calf and will train separately," said Deschamps on Saturday evening.

"We will review after the session. I will make changes, but I won't decide tonight. I will wait for the medical return and the feelings of the players. There will be changes, but I won't tell you how many."

France and Denmark will be joined in Group D at Qatar 2022 by Australia and Tunisia, and they are due to go head-to-head on November 26 in the second round of games.

Denmark got the better of Deschamps' side at the Stade de France in June in their first Nations League encounter, with Andreas Cornelius hitting a double after Karim Benzema had put the hosts ahead.

According to Deschamps, there will be little to be gained on Sunday with a view to the World Cup game, though.

"The only advantage is for players who are there and who will have the possibility of starting or coming on," he said. "I'm not going to get any particular benefit from it otherwise.

"In Qatar, it will be another game, but the teams will know each other well, that's true."

With Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan coming off injured in the 2-0 win against Austria on Thursday, West Ham's Alphonse Areola has got the nod to start against the Danes.

Areola came into the fray for the second half against Austria, with first choice Huge Lloris out through injury.

The 29-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain stopper has made five appearances for West Ham this season, albeit with four of those coming in the Europa Conference League and just one in the Premier League.

"He will start," Deschamps said. "I see goalkeepers starting in the national team and not in the club. Alphonse has been more or less a starter. Every time he plays, he performs well. Alphonse is there because he has quality."

Didier Deschamps hailed France for responding with a 2-0 victory despite having "little time to prepare" to face Austria in the Nations League.

Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante and Hugo Lloris were among the notable absentees for injury-hit France, while recent Barcelona recruit Jules Kounde limped off in Thursday's Nations League clash.

But Kylian Mbappe powered home in the second half to set Deschamps' side on their way to a win before Olivier Giroud – aged 35 years and 357 days – became France's oldest scorer.

The second-half double act from Mbappe and Giroud helped France to stave off Nations League relegation, picking up their first win to move a point clear of Austria with a game to play.

After Deschamps had to contend with a plethora of injury issues, the France head coach reflected on a job well done.

"I'm very satisfied with the way we played," he told M6. "The win is important, and we did everything we had to do, created a lot of chances and controlled the game with players who aren't used to playing with each other.

"We've had very little time to prepare, everyone has made an effort. There's a lot of positives."

Aurelien Tcouhameni benefited from the absence of Pogba, Kante and Adrien Rabiot, starting in midfield as France dominated Ralf Rangnick's side, and the Real Madrid midfielder felt his team showed their quality.

"We were determined to show a different face. We all wanted to show our true worth," Tchouameni said. 

"The conditions weren't optimal, but once you're on the pitch, there's nothing else that's important. Things went very well [with Youssouf Fofana]. You could see the understanding we have, I'm happy for him."

France will head into their final Nations League fixture with their fate in their own hands, facing Denmark on Sunday in Les Bleus' last outing before the World Cup starts in Qatar in November.

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud were on target as France picked up their first Nations League victory of the campaign with a 2-0 victory over Austria on Thursday.

Les Bleus faced serious injury difficulties heading into the international break, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante among the absentees, and often lacked fluidity at the Stade de France.

But Mbappe stepped up after 56 minutes to drive past numerous defenders and finish past Patrick Pentz before Giroud headed in to help Didier Deschamps' side to victory.

The winners of the last edition, France will now have their Nations League relegation fate in their hands, but cannot progress through Group A1 after leaders Croatia downed Denmark.

Mbappe thought he had curled France into a second-minute lead, only for the offside flag to deny him, before Jonathan Clauss forced Pentz to push over from range.

Jules Kounde was withdrawn as Les Bleus' injury woes continued before Benoit Badiashile's acrobatic effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Pentz, who denied Antoine Griezmann's close-range follow-up.

A smart passing move between Mbappe and Griezmann resulted in Clauss curling narrowly over after the interval, but France were soon ahead.

Mbappe received the ball from a driving Giroud run before powering forward into the area and firing a right-footed effort past the reach of Pentz.

Griezmann provided the second goal as his cross from the right wing found Giroud, who flicked a header into the top-left corner to secure the victory for France.

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

France head coach Didier Deschamps says Paul Pogba "will do everything to recover as quickly as possible" ahead of the upcoming World Cup, but accepts time is not on the midfielder's side.

Pogba underwent external meniscus surgery in early September and is not expected to be back on the field for another six weeks.

This puts the 29-year-old's World Cup place in serious doubt, with the tournament in Qatar just over two months away.

But Deschamps has no doubt Pogba will do all he can to recover in time, telling Telefoot: "I know Paul well, he will do everything to recover as quickly as possible and be with us in November.

"But the timing is short. He will come provided he is fit and in competitive mode."

Pogba is yet to make a competitive appearance for Juventus since he returned on a free transfer from Manchester United in July.

And Deschamps already insisted on Thursday he will not take the midfielder to Qatar if he is unfit, saying: "If he is recovered, it would be a very good thing.

"He won't come if he's not fit. He doesn't want that either. It's inconceivable. The number of players who will be there, they will all be ready to play."

Pogba was not the only notable player to be ruled out of Deschamps' France squad for their upcoming Nations League fixtures, with Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Presnel Kimpembe among the other absentees from the games against Austria and Denmark.

The 2018 World Cup winners have much work to do if they are to avoid relegation from the Nations League's top tier, having drawn two and lost two of their opening four matches in Group A1.

Didier Deschamps insisted he will not take a half-fit Paul Pogba to the World Cup after France saw several stars ruled out of their upcoming Nations League fixtures.

Pogba has yet to make a competitive appearance since returning to Juventus on a free transfer in July. He is a doubt for the tournament in Qatar after opting to undergo surgery to solve a lesion to the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

The 2018 World Cup winner is not the only injury concern for Deschamps ahead of Nations League contests with Austria and Denmark this month.

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema has been left out of their squad after suffering a knee injury, though Carlo Ancelotti said the striker was "progressing well" earlier this week.

Meanwhile, N'Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez and Kingsley Coman are also out.

Pogba's injury is the most worrying for Deschamps, who was unable to offer any update on his condition on Thursday.

"It is impossible today to affirm anything [except] through the intervention and the treatment protocol he has," Deschamps said.

"I know very well Paul, with whom I talk regularly. Today, no one, even him, can say whether he will be there [at the World Cup]. I don't know if he can be cured.

"Since I've been here, I've never for a single final tournament taken a player if he was not fully recovered. Paul, he's not here to amuse the gallery.

"If he is recovered, it would be a very good thing. He won't come if he's not fit. He doesn't want that either. It's inconceivable. The number of players who will be there, they will all be ready to play.

"It is a question in relation to the competition, those who will be selected will be able to answer these requirements."

Benzema's absence means Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann could be handed an opportunity in Les Bleus' upcoming games, despite seeing his game-time limited at club level this season.

With Atleti reportedly looking to avoid meeting a purchase clause in Griezmann's loan deal, the striker has played just 192 minutes in all competitions this season, though he has still found the net three times.

Deschamps is not concerned by the 31-year-old's lack of action, adding: "At least he's not tired. He has a situation that you know limits his playing time.

"He remains an important and decisive player for his club. He aspires to better, to do more. It's been a good moment [even though] he hasn't done a full 90 minutes."

Deschamps has named three uncapped players in his 23-man squad for this month's fixtures: Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani, and Monaco duo Youssouf Fofana and Benoit Badiashile.

France have posted two draws and two defeats in their first four games in Group A1 of the Nations League, leaving the world champions battling relegation from the competition's top tier. They host Austria on September 22 and travel to face Denmark three days later.

France squad: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Milan); Benoit Badiashile (Monaco), Jonathan Clauss (Marseille), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid); Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid); Olivier Giroud (Milan), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

Didier Deschamps remains confident Paul Pogba will be fit to play a big role for France at the World Cup despite missing the start of the season through injury.

Pogba sustained a knee problem in pre-season after returning to Juventus from Manchester United on a free transfer.

There were early suggestions surgery could see the World Cup winner miss Qatar 2022, but he has opted instead for therapy that aims to ensure a far swifter return.

Pogba is set to again be paired with N'Golo Kante in the France midfield in November, although the Chelsea man has not been without his own injury issues in recent seasons.

"We're talking about players who are in high demand – two players who have a big experience, leaders," Deschamps told Le Parisien of the duo.

"It is important that they are there, but we are never safe – hence the need to prepare younger players.

"I am obviously in contact with Paul. His participation in the World Cup, today, is not questioned."

Antoine Griezmann is another player still seen as key to Deschamps' plans, despite scoring only three goals in LaLiga last season.

"He's not a robot. Obviously the head controls the legs," Deschamps explained. "But every player encounters, sooner or later, a period of playing less well.

"This translates, then, into a loss of confidence.

"Antoine has had high-intensity seasons. Before his physical issue at the beginning of the year [a thigh injury], he had always been spared from injuries during his career.

"A few months earlier, he had changed clubs. External elements may also have impacted it.

"I know him well. He has a big mind. He needed to regenerate and will do everything to return to his best level. He represents a plus for the France team."

For now the focus is on getting France in the best condition heading into the World Cup, even as former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane continues to be linked to Deschamps' job.

The France boss, for his part, is not worried, saying: "I've always put the France team above me, above everything.

"Today, the place is not free, since I occupy it with my staff. Afterwards, everyone has the freedom to say what he wants and how he wants. On me, it has no impact.

"The interest, today, for the players and the whole squad, is to be efficient at the World Cup. Anything that can defeat this common goal is not necessarily a good thing."

Zinedine Zidane has always been a man focused on Real Madrid and France and therefore would not take the Paris Saint-Germain role should it become available.

That is the message from Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who briefly discussed the potential vacancy at PSG should reports prove to be true that Mauricio Pochettino will depart.

Pochettino lifted the Ligue 1 title with PSG in the 2021-22 season, his first trophy as a coach, but failed to deliver in the Champions League, falling to a last-16 exit against Madrid.

European glory remains the main goal for PSG's QSI ownership, with the understanding that Pochettino and the Ligue 1 giants have held discussions and agreed to part ways.

Zidane emerged as a frontrunner for the PSG job before Pochettino was appointed, but the preference of the 49-year-old remains to be seen.

Many believe Zidane is eyeing the France job should Didier Deschamps' Les Bleus role become available after the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Zidane managed Madrid for two spells between 2016 and 2021, winning 11 trophies with Los Blancos – the second most successful manager in the club's history.

The Les Bleus great has also lifted PSG's much-desired Champions League crown on three occasions as a coach, with three consecutive successes in Europe's premier club competition between 2016 and 2018.

But Perez, speaking to the El Chiringuito programme in Spain, finds it hard to envisage PSG securing the services of Zidane.

 

"Zidane at Paris Saint-Germain? I don't know, but he's always been a man for Real Madrid and the French national team," Perez said. 

"That's what I know about him. But maybe he's now in a different situation."

Christophe Galtier, Julen Lopetegui and Marcelo Gallardo are also said to be among the favourites if Pochettino expectedly departs.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde will undergo surgery for a hamstring injury on Tuesday, having been withdrawn at half-time of France’s 1-0 Nations League defeat to Croatia. 

The 23-year-old is a rumoured transfer target for Premier League heavyweights Chelsea, who were unable to complete a move 12 months ago but have revived their interest ahead of this window – though the injury may put a dent in the Blues' plans.

Kounde’s injury was something the team were aware of prior to the game, France boss Didier Deschamps confirmed, though the extent of his problem was not detailed after the match. 

"I knew very well his physical condition today. Tomorrow [Tuesday] he will have a [surgical] intervention because he has a problem that has been going on for several months," Deschamps said.

Capped 11 times by France, Kounde has established himself among the highest-rated young defenders in world football and shot to prominence during Sevilla's Europa League success in 2019-20. 

Utilised mainly as a central defender by his club side, Kounde's versatility has seen him feature regularly down the right for France. 

Les Bleus' defeat to Croatia in the Nations League capped off a woeful sequence for the defending champions, who sit rock bottom of group A1 without a win in their opening four matches – putting them at significant risk of relegation.

Didier Deschamps has told his France players to "clear their heads" after Les Bleus' dreadful Nations League title defence was ended by Croatia.

Luka Modric's fifth-minute penalty at the Stade de France earned Zlatko Dalic's side a 1-0 win on Monday, with Croatia gaining a measure of revenge for their 2018 World Cup final defeat.

The loss means France can no longer finish top of Group A1, and as such prevents them from qualifying for the Nations League finals and retaining their crown.

France are not in action again now until September, when their objective will be avoiding a humiliating relegation from the Nations League's top tier.

They certainly have work to do on that front as they sit bottom of the group after four games, having only mustered two draws and a couple of defeats this month.

Deschamps seemed to blame fatigue for France's struggles but also accepted the players of most other teams will have been in a comparable condition physically.

Speaking to TF1 at full-time, Deschamps said: "This month of June was very difficult in terms of results.

"We didn't have enough energy and strength against teams that had more than us. We weren't successful either. It was above all the freshness that was not there.

"There are always lessons to be learned with these results. Each match is rich in lessons.

"The succession of matches was very hard, we lost players from one match to another. No doubt that others nations were affected [by fatigue].

"[The players] will have to clear their heads and go back to their club and start again for this new season."

The defeat represented the first match since November 2020 in which France failed to score (23 games).

Kylian Mbappe should be fit to feature in France's Nations League clash with Croatia on Monday, according to Didier Deschamps.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker was forced off during Les Bleus' 2-1 defeat to Denmark at the Stade de France earlier this month.

Mbappe appeared to sustain the injury innocuously, pulling up after playing a pass to Aurelien Tchouameni.

He sat out the follow-up draw away to Croatia before coming off the bench to score France's late equaliser against Austria.

Deschamps is unsure how long Mbappe can feature for on Monday, but he is seemingly expecting him to be in contention to play some part.

Asked if Mbappe is fit, Deschamps told reporters: "Yes, according to him, although he still has a feeling that is not ideal.

"He is much less uncomfortable than he was at the start of the week when he couldn't train.

"He was ready to do half an hour [against Austria], it was planned. He exercised his knee where he had this discomfort.

"We are doing everything so that he can be there tomorrow."

Another France forward who is having difficulties of a different variety is Antoine Griezmann.

The 31-year-old, who spent this season on loan at Atletico Madrid, has not scored for club or country since his first appearance of 2022, way back on January 6 in a Copa del Rey win over minnows Rayo Majadahonda.

His last goal for Les Bleus was two months earlier in the 8-0 win over Kazakhstan.

Despite his struggles, Deschamps insists he and the team retain belief in the man who played such a key role in their 2018 World Cup success.

"We have all experienced less beneficial periods, when confidence is less," Deschamps added.

"For Antoine, it is not a question of positioning. I have confidence in him, the group has too, he is not at his best but this can happen to anyone."

Defending champions France are bottom of Nations League Group A1 after three games, having only managed draws with Croatia and Austria after losing to Denmark on matchday one.

Didier Deschamps has backed Antoine Griezmann and N'Golo Kante to be at their best by the time the World Cup arrives, heading into Friday's Nations League clash with Austria.

After a disappointing spell at Barcelona, Griezmann's transfer back to Atletico Madrid did not translate into an immediate return to form, while experiencing fitness concerns for the first time.

In a career that has seen him mostly without injury, missing two games in 2019-20 with Barcelona, the 31-year-old missed 15 games with Atleti due to a combination of muscle injuries and Covid-19 enforced isolation.

With that in mind, though, Deschamps believes the talismanic attacker for Les Bleus will be back to his best.

"I know him well," Deschamps said. "He has often benefited more from playing for Les Bleus. It's not his best period.

"A part of it is physical, and a part of it mental. He suffered his first injury this season. I'm not saying he's worn out. I know his qualities and his mind too. He does not baulk.

"This is not his best period, but it does not mean that I question what he is capable of doing. I know very well what he can bring to the collective."

Along with Kylian Mbappe and Adrien Rabiot, also missing in Monday's draw to Croatia, Kante will miss Friday's game in Vienna due to lingering injury concerns.

The 31-year has sat extensive periods on the sidelines at club level over the past three seasons, with continual hamstring problems denying him from a consistent run of minutes at Chelsea.

After missing almost two months of football this past season, Deschamps concedes that Kante's fitness needs to be managed, but will hope to count on him.

"When he is at full capacity, any coach wants to see him in his team," the Les Bleus boss said. "In relation to the deadlines that are ours, let's make sure that he is in full possession of his means.

"Many players have accumulated seasons of 60 games. At some point, organisations suffer a little more. His coach at Chelsea [Thomas Tuchel] would like to have him a little more. You have to manage it. Him there, me here."

Fielding an inexperienced side, Didier Deschamps insisted he will continue his search for optimal balance following France's 1-1 draw away to Croatia on Monday.

Following their opening Nations League defeat at home to Denmark, Les Bleus could only manage a point at the Poljud, with Andrej Kramaric equalising from the penalty spot following Adrien Rabiot's opening goal.

Deschamps went back to 4-4-2 after the opting for a 3-5-2 against Denmark, with several starting players under 10 caps including Moussa Diaby, Matteo Guendouzi, Christopher Nkunku and William Saliba.

With that relative lack of experience in mind, Deschamps was buoyant following his side's performance against the other 2018 World Cup finalist.

"We had overall control with two chances for 2-0 but we conceded a few too many situations to this Croatian team at the end," he said post-game. "The lines were stretched, but it was consistent overall. We could also have avoided the loss of possession at times. I can't be completely satisfied even though there are a lot more positives.

"We must also take into account the merit of the opponent. We also gave them the opportunity to equalise with this penalty. There are also all the changes at the end of the match. There were less than 200 caps in the team selected against Croatia. This is no excuse, but there are fewer automatisms."

The Vatreni finished the stronger of the two sides in Split, with chances falling to Luka Sucic and Nikola Vlasic upon their introductions.

France ended the game with a cumulative xG of 0.69 from seven shots in comparison to Croatia's 1.55 from eight, speaking to their growing inability to turn possession into something substantial in front of goal.

With one point out of a possible six, Deschamps insisted that while Les Bleus are not out of Nations League calculations, November's World Cup in Qatar requires experimentation in preparation for their title defence.

"We are in contention," he said after the match. "But with one point out of six, we are not in the best of moods. They are also preparation matches in anticipation of what awaits us at the end of the year. You have to see different things, different players and different systems.

"There were a lot of forced changes with worries and injuries. Compared to my starting lineup, I still have the same concern to put each player in the best conditions.

"We can always improve in defensive animation, but we can have problems with three, four or five [in defence]. I'm not frozen for the next game. But that doesn't mean I'm going to give up. I want to have more answers."

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