Time for France to show world-class pedigree

Kazan, Russia: The ego-driven problems of the past that saw France players go on strike at the 2010 World Cup are well and truly consigned to the past as the latest crop of Les Bleus target a repeat of their 1998 glory.
But coach Didier Deschamps, who captained France to World Cup victory in Paris two decades ago, faces a dilemma on the eve of a campaign which begins with a potentially tricky opener against Australia on Saturday: making sure his wealth of young French talent live up to their heady reputation.
Having steered France to the cusp of Euro 2016 glory, Deschamps watched in dismay as Portugal punished France in extra-time at the Stade de France.
Two years on, France arrive in Russia with high hopes of young players like Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele although it remains to be seen whether those are sufficient when it comes to meeting the big guns of Germany, Spain, Brazil and Argentina in the later stages.
“You don’t win competitions on talent alone,” 1998 World Cup winner Christope Dugarry warned. “You win because you’ve got the right mentality.”
Fluffing their lines against Group C minnows Australia at the Kazan Arena would be unthinkable for most French fans, although the Socceroos — who have talked up how they will fight tooth and nail to get a result — have pledged to provide the first hurdle.
“Come this France game we’re going to be ready, and giving ourselves opportunities to win this game,” warned Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
“We can’t wait for Saturday.”
Bold predictions aside, on paper France should breeze through a Group C which also features Peru and Denmark.
Antoine Griezmann, who announced on Thursday he was resisting advances from Barcelona and staying at Atletico Madrid, is one of the hottest properties in world football and, as he did at Euro 2016, is expected to shine in Russia.
Pogba’s time?
Two years after a disappointing Euro 2016, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could finally shine on the big stage, along with 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker Mbappe, who will be making his World Cup debut.
In comparison, Australia coach Bert van Marwijk has yet to decide who will lead the Socceroos’ attack, with former A-League reject Andrew Nabbout appearing to be leading the race ahead of Tomi Juric, who plays for Swiss side Lucerne.
The Aussies’ defensive game, a top priority for Van Marwijk since he was parachuted in to replace Ange Postecoglou in January, is still a work in progress. — AFP