5 France players to watch at the World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm •  Published: May 31, 2014
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PARIS (AP) — Several members of the France team that went on strike in training four years ago will be at the World Cup in Brazil, including mainstays Franck Ribery and Hugo Lloris.

But France coach Didier Deschamps has freshened up an aging squad and youngsters like 21-year-old Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba will be eager to make an impression on the world stage.

Karim Benzema, who was left out of the squad for the World Cup in South Africa four years ago, will get his chance to shine after a disappointing European Championship in 2012, and Blaise Matuidi has become a key player thanks to his boundless stamina and tenacious tackling.

Here are five players to watch:

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KARIM BENZEMA

After failing to score in the last two European Championships, and missing out on the 2010 World Cup, this is Karim Benzema's big chance to shine on the world stage.

In the space of a few months, he has gone from losing his form and confidence to becoming one of the most lethal strikers in Europe.

It has been some turnaround from Benzema, who lost his place in the France team to Olivier Giroud last year after a dismal run of 15 international games without a goal. Since the turn of the year, the 26-year-old Benzema has scored freely for Real Madrid and he even outshone Cristiano Ronaldo in the 4-3 loss to Barcelona on March 23, scoring two clinical goals.

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FRANCK RIBERY

When Benzema was struggling for form and goals, France turned to Franck Ribery.

Ribery's international career started brilliantly when, as an unknown, he was catapulted into the side that reached the 2006 World Cup final.

It was all downhill from there with a knee injury against Italy at Euro 2008 and a three-match ban from the French federation after the 2010 World Cup, when he was perceived to be one of the ringleaders of a training ground strike.

After two difficult years, the Bayern Munich winger got the fans firmly back on his side with some outstanding performances.

With more than 80 appearances and 16 goals, he remains France's most dangerous player.

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