It demonstrates the strength of world champions France that even without injured stars Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, their midfield still looks brilliant.
Real Madrid pair Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga could line up in an ultra-mobile, technically superb midfield pivot, with the promising Youssouf Fofana and talented ball players like Adrien Rabiot and Jordan Veretout as well.
And there are plenty of others who have a good argument that they should have earned a spot in the 26-man group, with a Champions League-winning Real Madrid defender, several Premier League stars and a hotshot striker also not making the cut.
In fact, France’s resources are so strong that even a team made up of players who missed out on their World Cup squad – announced by manager Didier Deschamps on Wednesday – could still have a good run at the trophy in Qatar.
And so with that in mind, Sportsmail has compiled an all-star line-up from those not selected, whether due to injury or otherwise, and presents an insanely strong XI of those who missed out.
Paul Pogba won the 2018 World Cup with France but will miss out through injury this time
FRANCE’S WORLD CUP SQUAD FOR QATAR
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes).
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Axel Disasi (Monaco), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern), Raphael Varane (Man United).
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real), Jordan Veretout (Marseille), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real), Kingsley Coman (Bayern), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig).
GOALKEEPER – Mike Maignan
AC Milan’s Mike Maignan would likely have been in the squad, either as backup to probable captain Hugo Lloris, or as third choice behind West Ham’s Alphonse Areola.
The French Guaina-born stopper, formerly of Lille, was instrumental in the Rossoneri’s Scudetto in 2021-22, keeping a league-high 17 clean sheets, but picked up a calf injury in September and has not recovered in time.
In his place, veteran Steve Mandanda is in after becoming No 1 at Rennes, with Benoit Costil, 35, overlooked and the tournament probably coming too soon for youngsters Illan Meslier and Alban Lafont.
RIGHT BACK – Jonathan Clauss
Deschamps has seemingly plumped for a back-four system rather than a back five using wing-backs, a style of play he flirted with during the summer, with mixed results.
That decision spelled the end of Marseille flyer – and reportedly Chelsea target – Jonathan Clauss’ hopes of making it in, with more defensive-minded right backs like Benjamin Pavard and cover from the versatile Jules Kounde preferred.
Leo Dubois’ move from Ligue 1 to Galatasaray in Turkey might have scuppered his chances, with Milan’s Pierre Kalulu and Lyon’s Malo Gusto in contention for the next major tournament after impressing at age-grade levels.
CENTRE BACK – Wesley Fofana
Goodness me, do France have some depth at centre back.
Ibrahima Konate, William Saliba and Dayot Upamecano are three of the most promising defenders in the world, with Raphael Varane – included in the 26-man list despite a knock – a proven European performer.
Leicester’s £70million summer signing Fofana is injured until late December and is therefore ruled out, but chances are he would not have made it anyway given his country’s strength in the position.
Wesley Fofana was ruled out injured for the World Cup but was unlikely to make the squad
CENTRE BACK – Kurt Zouma
Kurt Zouma of West Ham has probably paid the price for his side’s poor domestic form, with David Moyes’ men currently lying 15th in the Premier League.
In fact, his international career may be all but over, considering the considerable talents of Monaco’s Benoit Badiashile, Sevilla’s Tanguy Nianzou and Lyon wonderkid Castello Lukeba rising through the ranks.
Tottenham loanee Clement Lenglet did not make the cut either despite recently breaking into manager Antonio Conte’s first team.
LEFT BACK – Ferland Mendy
One of France’s most surprising calls is leaving out Ferland Mendy. He has only won nine caps and so is relatively unproven at international level but, having displaced icon Marcelo at Real Madrid, was a huge part of Los Blancos’ dominance last season.
Only Theo Hernandez is an expert in the position, and the manager probably thinks, as on the other side of defence, more natural centre backs like Theo’s brother Lucas Hernandez can offer cover.
The 46-cap defender Lucas Digne has struggled for form and fitness at Aston Villa, while Rennes’ Adrien Truffert and Nice’s Melvin Bard might be the next cabs off the rank in future.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD – N’Golo Kante
The irreplacable, irrepressible N’Golo Kante. Once criminally underrated but now widely seen as one of the best in the world in his position.
At 31, he is potentially coming to the end of his career in the short- to medium-term – particularly given several recent injuries – but make no bones about it, he would have started and been a key part of France’s plans in Qatar.
His midfield combination with Pogba was crucial to their 2018 World Cup success and his loss through injury will prove a big miss. Nice’s Alexis Beka Beka could be his long-term replacement for Les Bleus.
Chelsea’s star midfielder N’Golo Kante is another player who will out injured at the World Cup
CENTRE MIDFIELD – Paul Pogba
You can say plenty of things about Paul Pogba, and many have, but you must always acknowledge he was instrumental in France’s triumph four years ago.
He has struggled for consistency at times at club level, particularly at Manchester United, but often turns it on when playing on the international stage. The Juventus star’s injury weakens Deschamps’ hand, no doubt about it.
Other midfielders not included are Khephren Thuram, son of France icon Lilian, although his time may come. Khephren’s brother Marcus was called up along with Monaco centre back Axel Disasi after Presnel Kimpembe’s withdrawal with injury.
CENTRE MIDFIELD – Boubacar Kamara
Completing our midfield is Aston Villa’s Boubacar Kamara, the 22-year-old who was wanted by clubs across Europe this summer after his contract at Marseille expired.
Villa won the race to sign him this summer and he began well in claret and blue but missed the last six league games with injury and has evidently not done enough to prove his fitness.
Maxence Caqueret, Sofiane Diop, Enzo Le Fee and Kouadio Kone are also bright future prospects.
LEFT WING – Amine Gouiri
With Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann all options on the left wing, Deschamps has plenty of options.
That has meant in-form Rennes forward Gouiri, who has six goals and one assist from 12 Ligue 1 games this season, misses out.
Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe, on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt from Paris Saint-Germain, looks a good future option too.
RIGHT WING – Moussa Diaby
There aren’t really any truly out-and-out right wingers in the squad, with Coman or perhaps Christopher Nkunku set to be used on the right hand side in Qatar.
Moussa Diaby is banging them in for Bayer Leverkusen but there’s no room for his lightning pace or exciting dribbling for Deschamps, with more defensive numbers preferred.
Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise and Lyon’s silky youngster Rayan Cherki might be next in line come the 2026 edition.
STRIKER – Wissam Ben Yedder
This could be the last dance for veteran strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud, but with Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and potentially even Nkunku capable of covering up top, there’s no room for Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder.
The 32-year-old has 82 goals in 144 games for the Monegasque side in all competitions but was left out and will now rue what could be his last opportunity to feature at a World Cup.
The future looks bright, though, with Randal Kolo Muani, Hugo Ekitike, Arnaud Kalimuendo, Momo Cho and Southampton’s Sekou Mara all talented young strikers.