RAPHAEL VARANE – FRANCE
When it comes to winning World Cups, experience is key and, even without Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, France have a rich seam of tournament know-how rippling right through the squad, coupled with some of the best young talents in the world. Kylian Mbappe, of course, straddles both of those groups after his sublime performances in helping Les Bleus win the 2018 tournament, while Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema are generational players in their positions.
We hope to see Varane return to action and Didier Deschamps will be relying on him to reinforce the side’s spine, as the midfield has been questioned in some quarters, despite the presence of promising Real Madrid players Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga.
Les Bleus have been boom or bust in recent World Cups but, given their quality, they should breeze through a group containing Australia, Denmark and Tunisia. Top sides tend to click into gear as the knockout rounds progress, and I expect this to happen with France as they seek to become only the third nation to win back-to-back tournaments, after Italy in the 1930s and Brazil in 1958 and 1962.