Adrien Rabiot says France must "stay united" if they are to avoid the failures that saw them crash out of Euro 2020 at the round-of-16 stage.

France went into that tournament as world champions and advanced as group winners from a tricky pool that included both Germany and Portugal.

But their campaign was derailed in stunning fashion, as Switzerland scored two late goals to force extra-time from 3-1 down.

Kylian Mbappe then missed the crucial penalty in the shootout, as France were knocked out amid rumours of dressing room discontent.

Rabiot's family were reportedly involved in dissension too, with his mother allegedly clashing with the relatives of Paul Pogba and Mbappe after the Switzerland defeat.

Their disappointing tournament sparked memories of France's spectacular capitulation at the 2010 World Cup, where Les Bleus were blighted by a number of controversial incidents and failed to make it out of the group stage.

Rabiot acknowledged France cannot afford to self-destruct as they have in the past if they are to retain their World Cup crown.

"We have to stay united," Rabiot told reporters. "[We need to] try to have as few things as possible that interfere with the group.

"It is essential to have a serene climate. We have the potential to do much better than at the Euros."

The Juventus midfielder was not selected to France's squad for their 2018 triumph and he wants to make an impression at his first World Cup in Qatar.

"The [2018] World Cup was a big disappointment," Rabiot explained. "I worked a lot to be there in 2022.

"I take this as a chance and I'm going to be able to express myself."

France kick off their tournament against Australia on Tuesday, before also facing Denmark and Tunisia in Group D.

Olivier Giroud highlighted the importance of replacing Paul Pogba's influence on the France squad ahead of their bid to defend the World Cup.

Having lifted their second World Cup in 2018, France are considered one of the main contenders to emerge victorious in Qatar, though injuries to Pogba and other key players could harm their chances.

Pogba has not made a single competitive appearance since returning to Juventus in July, and was ruled out of the tournament after undergoing delayed surgery on a knee injury.

The midfielder, who scored in the World Cup final against Croatia four years ago, will be joined on the sidelines by N'Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku, and Giroud believes it is time for other players to assume senior roles.

"We will miss Paul Pogba a lot, like Kante and Kimpembe," Giroud said on Thursday. 

"Paul takes up a lot of space in this France team with his personality, but I am convinced that there are other young leaders who can emerge.

"I too will play my role of big brother for the youngest, be available for them, and speak up when necessary."

With 49 goals in 114 international appearances, Giroud is second in France's all-time goalscoring charts behind Thierry Henry (51), and is also his country's fifth-most capped player.

Giroud arrives at his third World Cup in fine form after scoring nine times for Milan this season, and will delay any decision regarding his international future until after the tournament.

"I feel good physically, in my game, in my club and in the France team. It's a period of splendour for me. It's a gift to feel like this at 36," Giroud said.

"I don't set myself any limits, it could be my last competition, but I don't want to announce anything. We'll see after the World Cup. My motivation to stay at the highest level is intact."

France fell short of expectations when they suffered a last-16 exit at Euro 2020 last year, and Giroud believes it would be wrong to consider them favourites to triumph in Qatar. 

"It's a childhood dream, when you have the chance to participate, you want to go to the end. I was lucky that it came true in 2018," Giroud added.

"Having the opportunity to play a third World Cup with this young, talented group gives us a lot of hope. We have a lot of hope but also humility, we do not make ourselves favourites. 

"We know that there are very big teams in this World Cup. I have a lot of confidence in this group."

The French Football Federation (FFF) has condemned racist messages directed towards Eduardo Camavinga on social media after Christopher Nkunku was injured ahead of the World Cup.

Nkunku was ruled out of the tournament in Qatar after suffering a knee sprain in training on Tuesday and is reportedly facing up to eight weeks on the sidelines.

Video footage circulated on social media purporting to show Nkunku sustaining the injury in a challenge with Camavinga, which led to the Real Madrid midfielder receiving discriminatory messages.

A statement released by the FFF on Thursday read: "Following Christopher Nkunku's injury, Eduardo Camavinga was the victim of racist messages on social media.

"The FFF condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms and is in full support of Eduardo."

Nkunku also defended Camavinga when addressing his social media followers on Wednesday, saying the 20-year-old had been "unfairly targeted" and calling for unity from supporters.

"Yesterday evening, following the medical examinations, I had to leave Les Bleus and forfeit the World Cup," Nkunku wrote on Twitter.

"Now, let's get to work with one and only objective, to come back even stronger.

"A thought for my team-mate Eduardo Camavinga, who was unfairly targeted. The World Cup must be a moment of togetherness and not of division."

France begin their Group D campaign against Australia on Tuesday, having suffered several injury blows ahead of their bid to become the first team to successfully defend the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

Midfield duo Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante will both join Nkunku in missing the tournament, as will Paris Saint-Germain defender Presnel Kimpembe, who withdrew from their squad on Monday.

Karim Benzema is "doing so much better" as he battles to be 100 per cent fit for France's World Cup campaign, according to his Real Madrid team-mate Eduardo Camavinga.

Benzema won his first Ballon d'Or last month after leading Real Madrid to glory in LaLiga and the Champions League in the 2021-22 season, but has endured an injury-hit campaign to date.

The striker has started 11 games in all competitions this season, scoring six goals, but he spent time on the sidelines with a knee injury before missing further fixtures after suffering from muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps.

However, with less than a week remaining until France begin their Group D campaign against Australia, Camavinga is enthused by his team-mate's recovery.

"He's getting better. He's doing so much better," Camavinga told RMC Sport. "I have a very good relationship with him, he helps me a lot at Real Madrid. 

"He is a very great player who deserves what is happening to him. I hope he will be ready for the World Cup.

"Sometimes in a match he comes to see me and tells me, 'If I have the ball you are going to do this run or this run', so he gives me advice at the right moment. 

"He also tells me when to stay in position. He is very good at communicating, he is a leader."

France are looking to become the first nation to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, but Didier Deschamps' team have been beset by bad luck on the injury front, with N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba missing the tournament.

With those two veterans of the 2018 World Cup win absent, Camavinga could partner Madrid team-mate Aurelien Tchouameni in a new-look France midfield, but he has no reservations over their lack of experience. 

"Critics are part of life. We don't have the same experience, but we are keen to show what we are worth," Camavinga added.

"With our enthusiasm and the experience of the elders, it can make a good mix."

Meanwhile, Deschamps has called up Eintracht Frankfurt forward Randal Kolo Muani after Christopher Nkunku suffered an injury on Tuesday.

Nkunku was ruled out of the World Cup after limping out of training with a leg injury, but his absence has given Muani – the scorer of eight goals for Eintracht this term – the opportunity to feature at his first major tournament.

Christopher Nkunku has been ruled out of the World Cup after the France striker suffered a knee injury in training on Tuesday.

The RB Leipzig frontman took a knock in a challenge with Eduardo Camavinga as they contested a 50-50 ball and he had to be helped off the field.

It was later confirmed Nkunku will not travel to Qatar after tests revealed he had sprained his left knee.

The French Football Federation sent Nkunku's medical file to FIFA in order for the defending champions to call up a replacement.

He is expected to be replaced by either Wissam Ben Yedder, Moussa Diaby, Morgan Terrier or Randal Kolo Muani.

Head coach Didier Deschamps and the squad are due to depart for their Doha base on Wednesday.

Les Bleus begin their World Cup Group D campaign against Australia on November 22, before tackling Denmark and Tunisia.

Among players from Europe's top five leagues – the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A – only France team-mate Kylian Mbappe has managed more combined goals and assists since the beginning of 2022 than Nkunku.

The 25-year-old has achieved a total of 48 goal involvements (37 goals and 11 assists) in the calendar year, with Mbappe leading the way on 57 (43 goals and 14 assists).

Christopher Nkunku gave France an injury scare ahead of the World Cup when he hobbled out of a training session on Tuesday.

The RB Leipzig forward, who has been in outstanding form for his club, took a knock that left him in obvious pain and required team staff to help him off the field.

Nkunku suffered the blow in a challenge with Eduardo Camavinga as they contested a 50-50 ball, with head coach Didier Deschamps among those who went to his aid.

Deschamps will want Nkunku to be fit to make the trip to Qatar, with France due to depart for their Doha base on Wednesday.

Reports in France said Nkunku would undergo tests to check he had not suffered any significant damage to his left leg, with the player said to be optimistic he would be fine.

Defending champions France begin their World Cup Group D campaign against Australia on November 22, before tackling Denmark and Tunisia.

Nkunku has scored 17 goals and provided two assists in 23 games for Leipzig this season.

Among players from Europe's top five leagues – the Premier League, LaLiga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A – only France team-mate Kylian Mbappe has managed more combined goals and assists since the beginning of 2022 than Nkunku.

Nkunku has achieved a total of 48 goal involvements (37 goals and 11 assists) in the calendar year, with Mbappe leading the way on 57 (43 goals and 14 assists).

Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, working their way back from injuries, played a limited part in Tuesday's training session.

Lionel Messi has named Brazil, France and England as his favourites to claim World Cup glory in Qatar.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will feature at his fifth World Cup this year, when he will look to help Argentina to their first triumph at the tournament since 1986. 

Messi was named Player of the Tournament when Argentina reached the World Cup final in 2014, but the Paris Saint-Germain star believes other teams head to Qatar in a better position than the Albiceleste.

"Whenever we talk about candidates, we always talk about the same teams," Messi told South American football federation CONMEBOL.

"If I have to put some above others, I think Brazil, France and England are a little bit above the rest.

"But the World Cup is so difficult and so complicated that anything can happen."

 

All six of Messi's World Cup goals to date have been scored in the group stages, and he has failed to net in 756 minutes of action in the knockout rounds of the tournament.

However, Messi was in inspired form as Argentina finished as runners-up to Germany eight years ago, contributing to 63 per cent of his team's goals in Brazil (5/8, with four goals and one assist).

He believes Lionel Scaloni's team can grow into the tournament this time around.

"We are very excited. We have a very nice group that is very eager, but we think about going little by little," Messi said.

"We hope to start the World Cup in the best way to face everything that comes after. The more you play and the more time you spend on the pitch, the more you get to know each other."

Argentina begin their Group C campaign against Saudi Arabia next Tuesday before facing Poland and Mexico. 

Hugo Lloris believes players must focus on football at the World Cup amid concerns over human rights in Qatar but says they "cannot remain insensitive" over the issues.

Qatar has come under the spotlight long before the first game of the tournament on Sunday due to controversy over human rights in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has penned a letter to all 32 nations who will play in the World Cup encouraging them to focus on football, but that was met with a backlash.

France goalkeeper Lloris is one of nine captains who will wear a distinctive rainbow heart-adorned armband at the tournament, raising awareness for the OneLove campaign against discrimination.

However, the Les Bleus skipper shares FIFA's view that players should respect the beliefs of their host country, telling reporters: "I have my personal opinion and that is in line with that of the president [French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet].

"When we welcome foreigners to France, we want them to follow our rules and respect our culture. I will do the same when I go to Qatar. We may not agree with that, but I will show respect.

"We cannot remain insensitive to these subjects. We are asking more and more of the players.

"But I believe that we must keep the focus on the game. Outside, everyone is free to express themselves and defend their opinions."

Lloris feels the onus to denounce Qatar's human rights record should not fall upon footballers, saying: "There’s too much pressure on the players. We are at the bottom of the chain.

"If you have to apply pressure, first of all it had to be 10 years ago. Now it’s too late.

"You have to understand that for players this opportunity happens every four years and you want every chance to succeed. The focus has to be on the field. The rest is for politicians. We are athletes."

Presnel Kimpembe has been replaced in France's World Cup squad by the uncapped Axel Disasi, despite returning from injury for Paris Saint-Germain at the weekend.

After sitting out the wins over Juventus and Lorient, PSG defender Kimpembe played the final 15 minutes of Sunday's 5-0 Ligue 1 triumph over Auxerre.

Kimpembe, who has represented France 28 times, said after the match he "is feeling fine" and was looking forward to linking up with his country for Qatar 2022.

However, the French Football Federation announced on Monday the defender "does not consider himself sufficiently recovered" to be able to represent the reigning world champions.

Didier Deschamps has added centre-back Disasi, who has made 23 appearances for Monaco this season, to his 26-man squad as Kimpembe's replacement.

Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram has also been called up after scoring 13 times and assisting four more in 17 appearances this season.

The France squad are due to meet at their Clairefontaine training base on Monday ahead of their Group D opener against Australia on November 22.

Les Blues, who are attempting to become the third team to win back-to-back World Cups, then take on Denmark and Tunisia.

France made it a record-extending 12 Test victories in a row with a thrilling late 30-26 win over South Africa in Marseille on Saturday in a contest that saw both sides have a player sent off.

South Africa trailed 13-0 after Pieter-Steph du Toit was dismissed early on for catching Jonathan Danty in the head, either side of a couple of Thomas Ramos penalties, before Cyril Baille stretched over the line. 

But the reigning world champions responded through a Cheslin Kolbe penalty and a try from Siya Kolisi, who darted around the side after a collapsing maul, though Ramos ensured France still retained a six-point lead at the break by kicking over another penalty.

Kolbe and Ramos added further points from the boot for their respective sides early in an action-packed second half, which sparked into life when Antoine Dupont was sent off for his challenge on Kolbe to level up the sides at 14 players each.

South Africa wasted no time in taking the lead for the first time through Kurt-Lee Arendse's score in the right corner following a driving maul, which Faf de Klerk added to with another penalty.

But after Ramos and Paul Willemse found the sticks to keep the scoreline tight, there was to be another twist as Deon Fourie was sin-binned with 10 minutes to go and France profited when Sipili Falatea crashed over in the third phase of play, with Ramos adding three more points to seal a statement win a year out from the World Cup.

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation, does not want France captain Hugo Lloris to wear a rainbow armband at the Qatar World Cup in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

The 'One Love' campaign was announced in September in which 10 European nations declared they wanted to "send a message" against discrimination, including captains wearing an armband featuring a heart containing multi colours to represent all backgrounds during the 2022 World Cup.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, England and Wales each signed up to the initiative, aimed to take place at the tournament and beyond.

However, Le Graet has now said he will "discuss it" with Lloris, admitting he would "rather" the defending world champions not take part.

"We're going to discuss it. But I'd rather [Lloris] doesn't do it," Le Graet said in an interview with L'Equipe. "We're playing in a country which we must respect. But if we have to wear it, we'll wear it.

"It's not that I'm not in favour of this armband, but sometimes I think we want to lecture others so much that we should also look at what's happening in our country."

Concerns have been raised about the World Cup being held in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal and was described earlier this week as "damage in the mind" by tournament ambassador Khalid Salman on German television.

FIFA recently wrote to all competing nations to remind them to "focus on football" during the tournament, which starts on November 20.

France international Benjamin Pavard has hinted he could leave Bayern Munich if presented with an appealing project elsewhere.

Pavard joined Bayern from Bundesliga rivals Stuttgart in 2019 and has won three German top-flight titles during his time with the Bavarian giants, as well as lifting the Champions League trophy in 2020.

The 26-year-old has made 20 appearances for Bayern this season, starting 16 times and contributing to five clean sheets.

However, in an interview with L'Equipe, Pavard suggested he may be open to swapping the Bundesliga for a new challenge, saying: "I'm not against discovering a new project. This may be the time. 

"There have been no specific discussions. For the moment, I am focused on the World Cup.

"I have immense respect for Bayern. Here, I learnt the requirements of the very top level, and it is an honour to wear this jersey.

"Why not discover a new country, a new culture? But the sports project must be interesting. I'm not going to leave for nothing."

The wing-back played a key role as France won their second World Cup in 2018, but Les Bleus' preparations for their defence of the trophy in Qatar have been fraught with difficulties.

France narrowly avoided relegation from the top tier of the Nations League after losing three of their six fixtures in Group A1 this year, but Pavard has no concerns about the team's form ahead of the World Cup.

"I'm not worried. It is better to have difficulties before the big competition than during it," Pavard added. "We have a team with new young players who just arrived, it is normal to need time."

Karim Benzema will do everything he can to be 100 per cent fit for the World Cup after making France's squad for the tournament amid an injury-hit season, says Didier Deschamps.

Benzema won his first Ballon d'Or after leading Real Madrid to glory in LaLiga and the Champions League by scoring 44 goals last term, but has endured a frustrating 2022-23 campaign to date.

The striker has started just 11 games in all competitions this season, hitting the net six times, and Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said the 34-year-old was "struggling" on Sunday after he suffered from muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps. 

However, Benzema will join the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud among France's attacking options in Qatar, and Deschamps hopes he will be in peak condition.

"Benzema has had a few minor injuries, but he knows that the World Cup is a very important moment," Deschamps said after revealing his 25-man squad on Wednesday. 

"He will do everything, like the whole group, to be 100 per cent."

Manchester United defender Raphael Varane has also been included despite sustaining a leg injury in the Red Devils' Premier League draw at Chelsea last month, and Deschamps is optimistic regarding his chances of facing Australia in the team's Group D opener on November 22. 

"Presnel [Kimpembe] had a little problem but he will be available for the last league game on Sunday," Deschamps said.

"For Varane, it's a longer injury, but he will be available for the first game against Australia on the 22nd, if all goes well."

The World Cup holders will head to Qatar with a depleted set of midfield options after Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante were ruled out, while left-backs Ferland Mendy and Lucas Digne, as well as Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan – who suffered a calf injury in September – are among the other notable absentees.

France will be captained by Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in Qatar, whose inclusion in a fourth World Cup squad sees him equal the national record set by Thierry Henry (in the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 tournaments).

France World Cup squad: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes); Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (Milan), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United); Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille); Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Milan), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has quelled suggestions that Karim Benzema is unavailable for club action in order to keep him fit for the World Cup.

The France international is set to represent the defending champions in Qatar but enters the tournament with a lack of minutes, having last appeared domestically against Elche on October 19.

Those fitness issues will once again keep Benzema absent from Thursday's trip to Cadiz, the final game before Qatar 2022, where Madrid are looking to bounce back after a surprise defeat to Rayo Vallecano on Monday.

Benzema's recent absence has not resulted in any concerns that he could be missing for France, leading to suggestions that he may just be being rested to ensure he does not get injured ahead of the tournament.

But Ancelotti denied that was the case.

"It has bothered me that he has not been able to help us with his quality - he has tried but he has not been able to come back from this small thing, so he is not available," Ancelotti said in Wednesday's press conference.

"I don't have to say anything to anyone. The first disappointed person is Karim, who arrives at the World Cup without the necessary minutes to be in good condition.

"To think that he has been rested, I do not believe it, it is silly. He has not stopped; he has trained alone, but the feelings he had were not good.

"It means he arrives at the World Cup with few minutes in his legs."

Asked whether Benzema ever felt his World Cup involvement was in doubt, Ancelotti added: "No, apart from that big injury against Celtic, it's been two small things."

Madrid's defeat last time out leaves the defending LaLiga champions five points adrift of leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand, and Ancelotti highlighted a drop in intensity as the reason for his side's decline.

He added: "If you lower intensity against teams that do not play in Europe, such as Rayo, they can be at a higher level than the rest.

"It's less noticeable when you're playing against teams that do play in Europe."

Karim Benzema is "struggling" and has been ruled out of Real Madrid's trip to Rayo Vallecano on Monday, which could prove a worrying sign for France ahead of the World Cup.

The Ballon d'Or winner returned from a short lay-off to feature as a substitute in Madrid's 5-1 Champions League win against Celtic on Wednesday, but he is now back on the sidelines.

Benzema has been troubled by muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps and the 34-year-old remains not quite at ease, although Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti expects him to be available for their home game against Cadiz on Thursday.

Benzema joins defender Antonio Rudiger in missing Monday's game, as Madrid seek a win that would take them back above Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

Looking ahead to the trip to Vallecano, Ancelotti said on Sunday: "Karim won't play because he's not feeling right.

"It looked as though he was okay, but he's struggling a bit and he won't be available tomorrow. Against Cadiz I don't think Rudiger will be back, but Karim should be."

Benzema has started just 11 games across all competitions this season, scoring six goals. He managed 44 goals in 46 games last term, enough to win the highly prized Ballon d'Or award, marking him out as the top performer in world football over the 2021-22 campaign.

"Karim's lack of game-time has meant we have got to see other players with real quality, like [Federico] Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius [Junior]," said Ancelotti.

"We've coped well with Karim being out thanks to the quality of the other lads. When we come back after the World Cup, we'll need Karim for the second part of the season."

The Italian then sang the praises of Rodrygo, the 21-year-old Brazilian who has seven goals this season, saying he considers the youngster "more as a centre-forward than a wide man".

Ancelotti was also asked about comparisons between Rodrygo and Brazil great Ronaldo, but says the 21-year-old benefits from the quality around him at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Ronaldo wasn't as fortunate as Rodrygo," Ancelotti said. "Back then, Real Madrid weren't as strong as they are now in the Champions League. 

"Rodrygo can make the most of that. If he reaches Ronaldo's levels on an individual basis, we'll be building a statue to him."

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