The 2022 World Cup is now less than eight months away and the excitement will ramp up another notch on Friday when the draw takes place in Doha.

Qatar will become the first Arab country to host the global showpiece, 92 years after the inaugural event in Uruguay, in what is the 22nd edition of football's biggest tournament.

It will become the smallest host nation by area, with matches to be spread across five different cities, making this the most concentrated edition since Argentina 1978.

Twenty-nine nations have already booked their finals spot, 22 of which competed at the 2018 edition, with the automatically-qualified hosts the only side to make their debut.

Due to the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the fate of eight teams remains in the balance – only three of whom can still advance.

Wales will face the winners of the Scotland versus Ukraine play-off in June, while New Zealand take on Costa Rica and Peru meet either Australia or the United Arab Emirates.

To further whet the appetite ahead of Friday's draw, Stats Perform looks at some key questions to be answered with the aid of Opta data.

 


Will Europe continue to dominate?

The past four World Cups have been won by European teams: Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010, Germany in 2014 and France in 2018.

That is the longest run of victories for a single continent in the tournament's history, with only one defeated finalist – Argentina in 2014 – coming from outside of Europe.

Indeed, a European team has triumphed in 12 of the previous 21 editions, with South America responsible for the other nine victors.

France are the reigning champions and are aiming to become the third team to retain the trophy after Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962).

However, a word of warning for Les Bleus – the past three defending champions have been eliminated in the group stage (Italy in 2010, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018).

 


No Italy, but will it be a familiar winner?

Despite that, France will be fancied by many having reached the final in half of the past six World Cups –1998, 2006 and 2018 – which is more than any other country.

Another World Cup heavyweight will not be present in Qatar, though, as four-time winners Italy – only Brazil (five) have won more trophies – missed out in the play-offs.

Speaking of Brazil, they are taking part in their 22nd World Cup, making them the only team to have featured in every edition of FIFA's showpiece competition.

Like Italy, Germany have won four titles and they have reached the semi-finals on four of the past five occasions, which is double the number of any other team in that period.

No matter how strong a side, a perfect tournament is tough to come by – only Brazil in 1970 and 2002 have achieved that since the 1930s, when teams played just four games.


Or is it a chance for someone new to shine?

Canada will play in their first World Cup since 1986; that gap of 36 years the longest between appearances among teams confirmed to be taking part in this year's event.

Egypt and Norway had the longest gap at 56 years, though Wales will break that should they advance from their play-off to qualify for the first time since 1958 (64 years).

Qatar are the only new face and will aim to avoid becoming just the second hosts to be eliminated in the first round after South Africa in 2010.

Mexico will also have their sights set on the knockout stages, though no side has played as many games (57) as them without reaching the final.

Netherlands, meanwhile, have reached the final on more occasions (1974, 1978 and 2010) without lifting the coveted trophy than anyone else.

 


Can Ronaldo and Muller set new records?

Cristiano Ronaldo will appear at a record-equalling fifth World Cup and is out to become the first player ever to score in five different editions.

The Portugal forward has seven World Cup goals in total, nine short of the record held by Miroslav Klose, who netted all 16 of his goals from inside the penalty area.

Thomas Muller has an outside chance of catching countryman Klose in Qatar, having scored 10 times across his three previous participations – no active player has more.

The top scorer in a single World Cup is Just Fontaine, who scored 13 times in 1958, including a goal in all six of France's games.

Not since Gerd Muller in 1970, with 10 goals for Germany, has a player reached double figures in a single edition. Brazil great Ronaldo's eight in 2002 is the highest since then.

It's nearly four years since Didier Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and coach, as he guided France to their second success on football's grandest stage.

The target now for Les Bleus is to become the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain their crown, and that journey begins on Friday with the draw for the group stage of Qatar 2022.

Four years is a long time to wait for anything, but the draw for the World Cup is always a milestone event that sees the anticipation taken up a notch.

The eyes of the football world will be on the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, where the eight groups will be drawn and potential routes to December's finale can start being plotted.

But there is a little more to the draw than that…

 

How will the draw work?

Most of us have seen a draw and understand the general premise, but there's a lot of detail to consider before we end up with our completed group stage.

For starters, Friday's draw (19:00 local time) will only include 29 qualified teams, with the other three spots to consist of a couple of intercontinental play-off slot placeholders and one UEFA play-off slot placeholder, with those nations to be determined later in the year.

The qualified teams will be sorted into four pots of eight, with their FIFA world ranking determining which they enter – joining Qatar in pot one will be the top seven teams, while the nations ranked eight-15 will be in pot 2, and so on. The three play-off slot placeholders will be drawn from pot four.

There will also be eight pots representing the groups, A to H. Each group pot contains four balls with position numbers, ranging from one to four, which correspond to the teams' respective starting position in the tables and subsequently impact their fixture schedule.

Team pot one will be the first to empty, with Qatar automatically drawn into slot A1. The other sides from pot one will go straight into position one of the remaining groups.

From then on, a ball is drawn from a team pot and followed by one from a group pot, determining that team's position – for example, the second nation drawn into Group A could be placed in slot A4. The process continues until each team pot is emptied, with pot four the last to be drawn.

Where possible, no group will contain more than one team from the same qualification zone, with the exception of Europe – so anyone hoping for an encounter like Brazil v Uruguay will have to wait for the knockout stage.

Thursday's release of the latest world rankings confirmed the make-up of the respective pots, so, without any further ado, let's take a look through them…

The Pots

Pot One:

Qatar (hosts)
Brazil
Belgium
France
Argentina
England
Spain
Portugal

 

Pot Two:

Denmark
Netherlands
Germany
Mexico 
USA
Switzerland
Croatia
Uruguay

Pot Three:

Senegal
Iran
Japan
Morocco
Serbia
Poland
South Korea
Tunisia

 

Pot Four:

Cameroon
Canada
Ecuador
Saudi Arabia
Ghana
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 1 
Intercontinental play-off placeholder 2
UEFA play-off placeholder

Luck of the draw!

It goes without saying that, theoretically, being in pot one means you would be favourites to win your group. But that's the beauty of football; practically anything can happen once you're on the pitch.

If we look back to the last World Cup four years ago, defending champions Germany were top of the FIFA rankings and in pot one, but then failed to get through the group stage for the first time ever.

 

But just as being in a higher pot is no guarantee of going deep into the tournament, who's to say how eventual 2018 champions France would have fared had they been in pot two?

Les Bleus were ranked seventh at the time so squeezed into pot one ahead of Spain. While that arguably gave them a trickier route to the final in the knockout phase, perhaps the tests posed by Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium were what kept them sharp all the way to the end?

This time around, Spain do appear in pot one. Portugal do as well, with Fernando Santos' men benefiting in that regard from European champions Italy's shock absence.

Nevertheless, there are some powerful teams in pot two. The Netherlands and Germany are undoubtedly the pick of the bunch there, both of whom will provide a stern test for any of the teams in pot one. Brazil v Die Mannschaft in the group stage, anyone?

There's a chance we could even see a repeat of the 2018 final in the group stage, with Croatia (pot two) able to come up against France in the opening round, while an England v United States showdown would surely capture the imagination of fans on both sides of 'the pond'.

We can expect to see plenty of quality in pot three as well, especially with Serbia, Robert Lewandowski's Poland and African champions Senegal present.

Among those in pot four are Canada. They may only be competing in their second World Cup and first since 1986, but John Herdman's team have won plenty of admirers en route to winning the CONCACAF qualifying section and reaching a record high of 33rd in the rankings.

 

Excitement, expectations and exoduses as Ronaldo and Messi look likely to bow out

Whether watching football on TV or from the stands, it can often be easy to forget that our heroes are just ordinary people as well. They are individuals who in all likelihood had the same hopes and dreams as many of us as children.

The glitz and glamour surrounding professional football can lead us to put footballers on a pedestal, but behind the sport's shiny facade, our teams are made up of – and coached by – people who are just as obsessed with the idea of the World Cup as anyone else.

England manager Gareth Southgate encapsulated the excitement earlier this week, as he said: "[The World Cup evokes] a different sort of feeling, but it's still a tournament we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well. And it's a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting."

Of course, that innocent excitement harbours expectation and hope for many, for others there will be a feeling of responsibility to amend the wrongs of the past.

This time around, that's arguably truest when looking at Germany, with Manuel Neuer fully appreciating he may not get another opportunity to put things right.

"I know that I will probably not get to play many more World Cups, so after crashing out in 2018 in Russia and our exit against England [at Euro 2020], it's important that we show a new version of ourselves and visualise success," the experienced goalkeeper said.

That finality Neuer alluded to is another key aspect of the World Cup. Given the four-year cycle of the tournament, every time we bid a fond farewell to a few greats of the game who opt to take advantage of the cyclical nature and end their international careers.

 

This time it looks as though Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – who for so long battled out their own personal 'Greatest of All-Time' rivalry – may be among those appearing on the World Cup stage for the last time.

"Goal achieved, we're at the Qatar World Cup. We're in our rightful place!" Ronaldo's Instagram post after Portugal's play-off success focused on the positive, but at 37, Qatar 2022 will surely be his final appearance at the tournament.

As for Messi, he said last week: "I don't know, the truth is I don't know. Let's hope [Argentina's preparations] go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Exoduses after major international tournaments are common as teams reset or rebuild, but given what Messi and Ronaldo have represented on the pitch and the fact they've appeared at each of the previous four World Cups, their appearances at Qatar 2022 need to be savoured.

It all begins with Friday's draw, when narratives and talking points that'll live longer than any of us will start to take shape with the unscrewing of a few shiny plastic balls.

Didier Deschamps says those who jeered Jonathan Clauss on his full debut are not true supporters and their opinion therefore does not count.

Clauss was handed a first start for Les Blues in Tuesday's 5-0 friendly win against South Africa, four days after earning his maiden cap as a late substitute against Ivory Coast.

However, the occasion – and indeed France's emphatic victory – was somewhat overshadowed by the reaction Clauss received from a section of his country's own fans.

The 28-year-old was targeted at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, the home of club side Lens' fierce rivals Lille, and Deschamps has praised the full-back for the way he handled the boos.

"I wanted to make him as comfortable as possible, so I find it regrettable to say the least what happened," he said at his post-match news conference.

"It goes against what the France team is, but it didn't stop him from bouncing back. Those who foolishly protested with whistles, it was faded by what he was doing on the pitch."

Asked if the jeers call into question France's decision to stage friendlies away from the Stade de France, Deschamps said: "No, I don't think so.

"But the fact we're talking about it, even if it was only a few people, encourages them to do it. It must be a non-subject – there's no place for it in a stadium.

"There is a rivalry between clubs, which I understand, but here we are with the France team. 

"I ask them to do everything possible to unite the team. The other people are not supporters; they don't matter."

Clauss can be pleased with his display, having intercepted the ball more times than anyone (five), while only Adrien Rabiot won possession more often (14 compared to seven).

In an attacking sense, meanwhile, only Olivier Giroud (eight) and Kylian Mbappe (20) had more touches in the opposition box than the defender's five, level with Lucas Digne.

"He has a lot of dynamism and is able to defend," Deschamps added. "I told him not to play with the handbrake today."

Mbappe scored twice in France's routine victory and assisted Matteo Guendouzi's first international goal late on after Khuliso Mudau had been sent off for the visitors.

In doing so, Mbappe became the first player to net in five successive France matches since Karim Benzema did so between November 2013 and June 2014.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker is 25 goals short of Thierry Henry's record of 51 for France, but Deschamps insists his side are not a one-man team.

"It's not Kylian and the others, but Kylian with the others – that's important.

"His legs were on fire today. His ability to score and accelerate places him among the world's most outstanding players."

Wissam Ben Yedder was also on target for France, as was Olivier Giroud with his 48th international goal, moving him within touching distance of Henry's all-time record.

Giroud will be 36 by the time the 2022 World Cup comes around in November and Deschamps could not offer any guarantees over his long-term future in the squad.

"I've had discussions with him, as I have with many players," Deschamps said. "I don't know about the future and neither does he.

"But when he's here, he has the ability to score. His profile is well known – he's a support striker. He has this sense of the goal and is important for us even without scoring."

Kylian Mbappe says he is targeting Thierry Henry's France goalscoring record after scoring twice in Tuesday's 5-0 friendly thrashing of South Africa.

Mbappe was in fine form as the world champions dispatched the Bafana Bafana in Lille, bending home a superb opening goal on 23 minutes before winning and converting a 75th-minute penalty. 

With his first goal of the contest, Mbappe became the first player to net in five successive France matches (a total of nine goals) since Karim Benzema did so between November 2013 and June 2014 (he posted seven strikes).

The 23-year-old also added an assist during a fantastic display, teeing up Matteo Guendouzi for his first France goal at the death, meaning he also became the first player in the 21st century to record an assist in five consecutive games for Les Blues.

Speaking to TF1 in the immediate aftermath of France's dominant win, Mbappe, who remains 25 goals short of the Arsenal legend's tally of 51 international strikes after his double, predicted he will draw level with Henry sooner than anticipated.

"Of course [the record is a target]," Mbappe said. "Of course, I've always wanted to be the first everywhere, in the French national team [as well] as in the club. 

"There is still a long way to go. What Titi did, no one else has done. [But] I think I can get there much faster than you think."

The pacey forward, who has been the subject of intense transfer speculation ahead of the expiration of his PSG contract this summer, also became the second-highest goalscorer in PSG history earlier this month, surpassing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 156 goals for the club in a Champions League defeat to Real Madrid.

On the international front, meanwhile, he is not the only striker within Didier Deschamps' setup with Henry's record in his sights. 

Olivier Giroud's first-half goal put Les Blues 2-0 up against South Africa, and the former Chelsea and Arsenal man is almost certain to beat Mbappe to the landmark, requiring just three more goals to draw level with Henry after his 48th France strike.

Kylian Mbappe's double helped France to a 5-0 win over South Africa in Lille, with Olivier Giroud, Wissam Ben Yedder and Matteo Guendouzi also netting during a dominant display from Didier Deschamps' team.

Mbappe bent home a stunning opener before Giroud doubled France's advantage after 33 minutes, with the Milan striker moving to within three goals of his country's all-time goalscoring record with his composed finish.

Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe won and converted a 76th-minute penalty and Ben Yedder poked home a fourth with nine minutes remaining.

South Africa finished the game with ten men after Khuliso Mudau's late dismissal, with Guendouzi joining the scoring late on as the world champions recorded a seventh consecutive win.

Giroud met Lucas Digne's fifth-minute cross with a firm header to force a strong save from Ronwen Williams, before Mbappe miscued a right-footed finish from 12 yards out after being picked out by the full-back.

But the PSG striker opened the scoring in spectacular fashion on 23 minutes, retrieving Antoine Griezmann's cross before bending a stunning strike into the top-right corner from the edge of the area.

Les Blues needed just 10 more minutes to double their lead, with Griezmann again turning provider when he fed Giroud, who rounded Williams to roll home his 48th international goal. 

Williams made strong near-post saves from both Giroud and Mbappe as France continued to dominate after the break, before the impressive Digne crashed a fine volley against the upright on the hour.

Mbappe marked a starring performance with another goal with a quarter of an hour remaining, drawing a foul from Siyanda Xulu with a terrific burst into the penalty area before rolling the spot-kick into the bottom-right corner.

There was still time for Ben Yedder to add some gloss to the scoreline when he prodded over the line from Paul Pogba's header, before Mudau capped a terrible night for South Africa by seeing red for an awful challenge on Adrien Rabiot.

But Les Blues were not done yet, adding a fifth when Guendouzi bent home his first international goal after latching onto Mbappe's pass.

Raphael Varane will feel "great pride" in captaining France when they face South Africa on Tuesday in Les Bleus' final game of the March international break.

The Manchester United defender has been handed the armband for the friendly clash at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, the 28-year-old's hometown, with regular skipper Hugo Lloris sitting the game out.

Didier Deschamps' side are looking to continue their preparations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup at the end of the year, as they eye a successful defence of their 2018 crown.

With regular captain Lloris set to be benched in favour of Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan, Varane said it would be an honour to lead out his country in his home city.

"It is a great pride," he said. "I grew up not far from here. I was born in Lille, I grew up between Lille and Lens. 

"Of course, it's a bit special."

Varane also commented upon the selection of Maignan, who has kept 11 Serie A clean sheets in an impressive debut campaign with the Rossoneri, praising the 26-year-old's leadership and character.

"He brings great explosiveness," Varane said of Maignan. "He has a great kicking game, he brings his character, he is a leader at heart.

"He keeps progressing and continues to evolve. He has a lot of talent."

The former Real Madrid defender spoke in glowing terms about Clauss' qualities, saying that his inclusion in the squad brought "a lot of joy".

"He brings a lot of freshness," Varane added. "I did my best to welcome him, to put him at ease.

"He is living an exceptional moment, and it brings a lot of joy.

"If he is there [in the France squad], he has the qualities. The desire is there, [and] he has some very interesting qualities."

Deschamps' side will be looking to maintain their excellent attacking form when they host South Africa, having scored in each of their last 19 games, the longest such run in the history of the national team.

Aurelien Tchouameni revealed Paul Pogba has helped him integrate into the France national team, hailing the Manchester United star for his guidance.

The Monaco midfielder made his debut for Les Bleus last November - helping them win the Nations League - before netting the winner in Friday's victory over the Ivory Coast.

Tchouameni will hope for another opportunity to consolidate his place in Didier Deschamps' squad when the world champions play South Africa on Tuesday.

And the 22-year-old is thankful to Pogba for helping him settle during the infancy of his senior international career.

"Paul gave me lots of advice," Tchouameni said. "He guided me and I thank him because he is one of the people thanks to whom I feel good in this group.

"In the field, our complementarity happened naturally. He's the player I've been most associated with, I think. We manage to delegate tasks and talk to each other to sometimes tighten the lines."

Although, Tchouameni admitted he was unsure if he needed to make the move to a European heavyweight to yield further selection, pointing to club mate Wissam Ben Yedder as an example.

"I do not know," he added. "Maybe, that's a discussion I need to have with the coach. From what I see, you don't necessarily have to play for [Manchester] City or Real [Madrid] to be regularly in selection.

"We see it with Wissam Ben Yedder, who is in Monaco with me. It's not a hindrance to play for ASM; I'm fine there. In any case, this is not a question that I asked myself."

Didier Deschamps has confirmed that Kylian Mbappe will return when France take on South Africa in Lille on Tuesday.

Mbappe missed Les Bleus' 2-1 victory against the Ivory Coast on Friday as a precaution with an ENT infection, where a late Aurelien Tchouameni goal sealed the friendly win.

However, without specifying whether it would be from the start or the bench, Deschamps has said the Paris Saint-Germain star will be back in contention for the next encounter.

When asked about Mbappe, Deschamps told Telefoot: "He is much better, he will be there on Tuesday."

The 23-year-old has 24 goals in 53 caps for France, but could face competition in the form of Christopher Nkunku, who made his international debut in Friday's win in Marseille.

The RB Leipzig forward has been in sensational form for the Bundesliga club this season, scoring 26 goals in 39 games across all competitions.

"[My debut] was an exceptional moment for me," he told reporters. "It was a committed match against a technical and physical team. I am a French international and I hope to be so for as long as possible."

Meanwhile Lens full-back Jonathan Clauss, who also made his senior international bow after being called up for the first time at the age of 29, hopes to be in contention for a place in Deschamps' World Cup squad later this year.

"We are all competitors, we all want to play extraordinary competitions, otherwise we wouldn't be here," he added. "We must not put the cart before the horse. 

"I have to keep performing if I want to be part of this group for the World Cup. I don't make that decision, but I'll make sure to do my best."

Aurelien Tchouameni experienced a "beautiful" moment in his career with his first France goal, but he is now keen to move onto his next objective. 

After establishing himself at Monaco in the 2020-21 season, Tchouameni has been producing consistently excellent displays in the heart of their midfield.

Since the start of 2021, he ranks third across all players in the top five European leagues in terms of possession won (387) and tackles won (83), while he is joint-second in terms of duels won (408).

Tchouameni was unsurprisingly drafted into the France set-up by Didier Deschamps last year, while the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid have all been credited with an interest in the 22-year-old. 

He opened his senior international account in his eighth appearance with a last-gasp winner in a 2-1 success over Ivory Coast on Friday but was keen to keep his feet on the ground. 

"It's the fruit of my labour. I hope to remain calm. It's beautiful what's happening to me, but I have goals. Scoring my first goal was one, so now we move onto something else," Tchouameni told M6. 

"The team and the staff really help me show my personality on the pitch and that's what makes me feel great on the pitch. 

"In the first half, we attacked a lot and Ivory Coast had the opportunity to break through on the counter. We tightened the screws in the second half and I don't think we even conceded a single chance. 

"At the end we were rewarded, and that's good." 

Tchouameni's winner came after Olivier Giroud cancelled out Nicolas Pepe's opener in his first France appearance since Euro 2020. 

The goal will have boosted Giroud's chances of retaining his place in Didier Deschamps' squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar later this year. 

"He did what he does with his club. He always has this quality of scoring, especially in the air. Of course, it made him happy," said Deschamps. 

"He returned to the group, which he knows well, and it was all the better for us. 

"When we have friendlies we must take advantage of them. There will be a second on Tuesday [against South Africa], so I will make changes to distribute the playing time to the maximum number of players." 

France have now won six straight games for the first time since 2016 and are undefeated in their past 19, scoring 43 goals during that run. 

Aurelien Tchouameni's first senior international goal secured France a last-gasp 2-1 friendly victory over Ivory Coast at the Stade Velodrome on Friday. 

Nicolas Pepe put the visitors ahead in Marseille, but Olivier Giroud marked his first Les Bleus cap since Euro 2020 with a rapid equaliser midway through the first half. 

The game looked destined to be heading for a draw with Kylian Mbappe remaining an unused substitute five years to the day since his international debut. 

However, Tchouameni – the Monaco midfielder linked with the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool – headed Matteo Guendouzi's corner home in the 93rd minute to complete the turnaround and give France the win. 

England's Six Nations performance has been labelled "incredibly disappointing" by Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney.

Eddie Jones' side backed up a poor 2021 championship campaign with just two wins from five again, as their third-place finish lagged far behind France and Ireland.

A year-and-a-half out from the 2023 World Cup across the channel, England look unlikely to contend for the crown as they did in Japan in 2019.

"We are all, as an organisation, incredibly disappointed with what happened this year in the Six Nations," Sweeney told the media. "You'd expect more.

"To come away with fifth-place last year and two wins, and then going into this year's Six Nations feeling in good shape and expecting more, to only have a further two wins out of 2022 and come third was incredibly disappointing for us.

"We demand more in terms of our results and performances. Emotions have been running very high, it still feels quite raw. There is a great deal of frustration and disappointment."

Sweeney paid tribute to England supporters for their contributions, while stressing the team has still made progress under Jones in the last year.

"We saw a fantastic response from the fans during the Ireland game, one of the best examples of connecting with the team," he added.

"We understand why they're expecting more and feel not in a great place at the moment.

"We do feel there's been some real positive developments. We do feel we're on a path to the right direction. If you look at where we were 12 months ago: we're in a better place.

"It's a very tight-knit squad. There is a strong spirit. The players believe in [Jones] and believe he's taking them in the right direction.

"We're very excited by developments despite the fact we're coming out of a very difficult period. We know we're going to get better."

France head coach Didier Deschamps is focused on the present and not concerned by the future after calling up Olivier Giroud to replace Karim Benzema.

Giroud has not featured for Les Blues since their exit to Switzerland at Euro 2020 last June, but the 35-year-old has come back into contention after an injury to Benzema.

The Milan striker sits just five goals behind Thierry Henry in France's all-time scoring charts after netting 46 times in 110 games.

Though Giroud was omitted from Deschamps' recent squads, he now has a chance to impress in friendlies against Ivory Coast and South Africa.

Deschamps, speaking at Monday's news conference, was keen to turn the attention away from Giroud as he insisted the former Arsenal and Chelsea forward does not have to prove himself.

"The most important thing for me is to be consistent and fair in my speech with the players, whether it's Olivier or others," he told reporters.

"Olivier is going to join us, and he doesn't have to do more or less. He was part of this team that was successful, it was also without him, and he remains selectable, as I have always said. 

"But don't ask me about the future. Of course, his presence is linked to Karim's injury. But there is no particular attention around him, he is part of the group."

Asked whether Benzema and Giroud could feature together down the line, Deschamps added: "It's not a question of relationships, there's competition, too, but it goes further than that. 

"History shows it is always a great difficulty for a player who has a status that he deserved to have, to no longer have this status. 

"It is very difficult to live with, not to say impossible. But it's human and it's not specific to Olivier. It's more complex. I did not call him to tell him that he will have 30 per cent playing time and see how he reacts. 

"He can accept anything, it's only ten days, but again, I don't want to make a case apart, and there have been quite a few in this case. 

"A player who has status needs to have an important role. I am convinced of that."

Arsenal's William Saliba, who is currently on loan at Marseille, has also been handed a late call-up after Bayern Munich's Benjamin Pavard withdrew.

"We have been following him for a while, I talk a lot with Sylvain Ripoll [France's Under-21 coach], who has known since the weekend, just in case," Deschamps said of Saliba. 

"The schedule meant that William was playing last night [Sunday], so I waited until after the match to make his call-up official, but what he does in the Under-23s and for his club, in a system that is not identical but similar, is interesting. 

"He is a good defender, fast, who has a good heading game, and exudes a lot of calmness in his play."

Deschamps stressed that France's upcoming friendlies are important, while he was glad to not be in the position of Portugal and Italy, who will battle for World Cup qualification in the play-offs.

"I know that many players have had very important matches before and will have very important ones after," he added. "It will be full in Marseille, full in Lille, and it is our duty to be efficient. 

"You think that these two friendlies have little value, but I know very well that we have to win them, because otherwise, they will increase in importance. 

"And I prefer to be in my place than in the place of my Italian and Portuguese counterparts. I am happy to be among the 14 nations that have already qualified [for Qatar]!"

The Rugby Football Union's (RFU) claim England made progress during a tough Six Nations campaign has been criticised by ex-international Ugo Monye, who called their statement "dishonest".

Eddie Jones' side finished a distant third behind Ireland and Grand Slam winners France, managing just two wins from their five games.

It marked a second successive dismal Six Nations, far removed from reaching the final of the 2019 World Cup that marked the high point of the Australian's tenure in charge.

Now, a year-and-a-half out from the 2023 World Cup in France, the RFU has sought to frame their results as stepping stones, but Monye – a 14-time England international – believes such claims are untruthful.

"I want to know who in the RFU thinks that signifies progress and are happy with how things are," Monye told BBC Sport's Rugby Union Daily podcast.

"Fundamentally it's just dishonest. There isn't progress. With the financial backing, the player pool and the coaching staff they have you cannot be winning two out of five games two years in a row.

England head coach Eddie Jones has called upon fans to maintain faith in the team's development after a disappointing Six Nations campaign ended with a 25-13 loss to France.

Saturday's defeat to the Grand Slam champions ensured England finished third in the 2022 standings, after Wales suffered a shock loss to Italy and Ireland beat Scotland in the final round of fixtures.

England have now lost three games in three separate editions of the Six Nations under the Australian, having done so just twice in 16 campaigns prior to his 2015 appointment.

But Jones has called upon supporters to maintain faith in the team, which he says is going through a "rebuilding" process ahead of next year's World Cup in France. 

"They [England fans] have got to have some faith," Jones said on Sunday. "I think I have done a reasonable job for England over the past seven years.

"We are going through a period now where we are rebuilding the team and it takes time. Look at the French team, it took them three years to win the [Six Nations] Championship [after appointing head coach Fabien Galthie in 2019].

"We have rebuilt the side from the last Six Nations [after finishing fifth in 2021]. I think the progress is very positive, [but] the results aren't the results we would like.

"We would all like to be winning tournaments and be top of the table, but we are not quite good enough to do that now.

"But within the next 12 to 14 months when we prepare for the World Cup, we will be."

England head coach Eddie Jones conceded he had not "done a good enough job" after his side suffered a 25-13 loss to France, who secured a long-awaited Six Nations title and Grand Slam on Saturday.

A second-half try from Freddie Steward gave England hope, but Antoine Dupont went over on the hour to secure victory for Les Bleus at the Parc des Princes.

It was England's third defeat of the tournament, and the third time they have lost as many under the Australian, having done so just twice in 16 editions before his appointment in 2015.

Questions have been asked about Jones' position, but following the defeat, the 62-year-old said they were "for other people".

"That is not a question I need to answer," he said. "I just do my job, it is a question for other people to answer. I am not even thinking about that."

"I'm disappointed, disappointed for the fans, for the players, I obviously haven't done a good enough job, I accept that, but we're moving in the right direction. The results aren't good enough. When you rebuild a team it takes time.

"France are deserved champions of the Six Nations, they are the best team, but we had enough chances to win that game, we just didn't put them away, we were not quite clinical enough in doing that.

"That has been a little bit of the story of us in the Six Nations, we have put ourselves in position to win the three games we have lost but not been clinical enough, not been good enough, particularly in some of our clean out work to win those games.

"So that is disappointing, but the spirit we showed is going to make sure this team keeps moving in the right direction."

England finished in third-place after Wales' shock loss to Italy and Ireland's win over Scotland in the final round of matches in the 2022 tournament.

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