France coach Didier Deschamps included Raphael Varane in his World Cup squad on Wednesday despite the defender’s recent injury problems, while in-form striker Olivier Giroud was also called up.
Deschamps selected 25 of a possible 26 players for the tournament in Qatar, where France will attempt to become the first team to defend their World Cup title since Brazil in 1962.
Eleven members of the 2018 title-winning squad return, including captain Hugo Lloris and reserve goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, along with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann.
Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who has missed a series of games for Real Madrid this season because of injury, is set for his first World Cup appearance since 2014.
Benzema was frozen out of the France team for five and a half years due to his role in a blackmail scandal involving a sextape and his international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
He was convicted for his role in that affair last year but by then he had returned to the France side, playing at Euro 2020 and in the team that won the UEFA Nations League.
The 36-year-old Giroud is two goals away from equalling Thierry Henry’s national record of 51 goals. He played every game at the World Cup in Russia but did not score.
Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe was picked despite thigh and Achilles problems that have limited him to five appearances since the start of September.
Varane will have gone a month without playing by the time Les Bleus meet Australia in their opening game of the World Cup on November 22.
“The two cases are different,” Deschamps told TF1. “Kimpembe has had a little worry but he’ll be available for his club for the last league match on Sunday.
“Varane has a longer-term injury but he too could be available against Australia if everything goes well.”
Deschamps has plenty of cover in central defence with William Saliba, Dayot Upamecano, Jules Kounde and Ibrahima Konate in the squad. Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez can also fill in there.
Mandanda, 37, took the place of AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who has been hampered by a calf injury.
France are without first-choice midfield pair Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, leaving Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot as the probable starters.
They will be supported by Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana, Real Madrid’s Eduardo Camavinga and Marseille duo Jordan Veretout and Matteo Guendouzi.
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