PARIS: Midfielder Tanguy Ndombele’s impressive ascension through the French football ranks was rewarded with a first call-up for France as the World Cup winners prepare for games against Iceland and Germany.
France coach Didier Deschamps, who led Les Bleus to World Cup triumph over Croatia last summer, also recalled Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sakho, following his two-year absence from the squad, as he struggles with injuries in defence with both Samuel Umtiti and Adil Rami among the players sidelined.
France play Iceland in a friendly on October 11 and then Germany in the Nations League five days later, matches in which Ndombele will be hoping to claim some game time after stepping in for the injured Bayern Munich star Corentin Tolisso.
The 21-year-old midfielder was still with then-Ligue 2 side Amiens just over a year ago.
In the time since he has joined Ligue 1 giants Lyon, has had a taste of both the Europa League and Champions League, and now has a chance to stake a claim for a place in the France team.
Although he steps in for injured Tolisso, Deschamps was quick to underline Ndombele’s potential.
“He’s capable of just about everything in midfield,” said Deschamps.
“He’s got great technical skill and for quite a while now with Lyon, he’s been playing a lot more regularly.”
“He has a very good shot and should be scoring between six and 10 goals a season, given the position he’s playing in and his technical skill.”
“Even though what he achieved all last season was very impressive, he’s still made a lot of progress in terms of accumulating games, ball recovery, and ball distibution.”
Deschamps largely kept faith with the squad that secured France’s second World Cup title in Moscow, his only changes due to injuries.
Everton centre-back Kurt Zouma, 23, was called up due to the absences of Umtiti and Rami. He has two caps already having played against Denmark, twice.
Zouma’s Everton teammate Lucas Digne was recalled after Benjamin Mendy suffered a foot injury.
Deschamps, meanwhile, ruled out a return for Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
Rabiot severely compromised his France future prior to the World Cup when he refused a replacement spot in the squad, informing Deschamps in an email before publishing an open letter in which he said Deschamps’ choice made “no sporting sense”.
Asked about Rabiot’s absence, Deschamps said: “It’s still far too early to recall Adrien Rabiot.”
“The situation is clear for me, you all (media) know what happened and it’s not something to be taken lightly.”
“I’m not making the situation worse but given my vision of what the France team and the jersey represent, it wouldn’t make sense to recall him.”
“You have to be responsible for your words and your actions.”