Why France’s Nasri gamble has already backfired

The Rio Report

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Didier Deschamps' decision to omit Samir Nasri from France's World Cup squad was met with widespread bewilderment.

It prompted a Twitter tirade from the Manchester City star's girlfriend and soured the optimism that surrounded the French camp following their impressive comeback victory against Ukraine in their World Cup play-off.

[‘F*** France!’ – Girlfriend lashes out at Nasri snub]

But at least France could rely on Franck Ribery – the man robbed of the Ballon d'Or by Cristiano Ronaldo after FIFA cruelly reopened the voting.

Now they can’t.

News that the Bayern Munich forward had suffered a back injury and would miss Brazil emerged from the French camp on Friday and sparked immediate debate as to why Nasri was already weeks into his summer retreat.

Deschamps' decision to leave Nasri at home stemmed from the midfielder's reputation of creating unease in squads he was not an integral part of. But a quick glance at the initial 30-man squad highlighted that Nasri would not have been on the periphery – and, given his end of season form, may have even merited a starting place.

Instead, France fans must hit the fan parks or huddle around the TV cheering on little-known duo Antoine Griezmann and Remy Cabella who, despite impressing for Real Sociedad and Montpellier respectively, have little experience attacking the world's finest defenders.

Of the pair, Griezmann has more of a claim to a starting berth and there's a lot of excitement surrounding the 23-year-old. He shone in the 3-1 Liga victory against a weary Barcelona in February. But Sociedad's five other matches against Spain’s top three? Relatively anonymous.

What makes the decision even more bizarre is that Ribery has nursed a back complaint for some time. Sticking Nasri on the standby list would have allowed France to prepare for Ribery's withdrawal without any commitment to hand the City player a squad number below 23 should he have proved a nuisance abroad.

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If Nasri had replicated his form of 2013 then few could have argued against him being left to spend his summer topping up his tan. But the forward has sparkled under new boss Manuel Pellegrini, scoring seven goals with a matching assist total as the Citizens wrestled the title from Old Trafford.

As Ribery finished the season in a laboured fashion – going through the motions with Bayern Munich after securing the league and suffering an awakening Champions League mauling to Real Madrid – Nasri was starring in City’s title run.

Nasri played all but 16 minutes in his side’s five-match winning streak and scored the opening goal in their must-win final day encounter with West Ham. He had the momentum and, crucially, the form approaching a major tournament. His exploits should have seen him pushing for a starting spot, so to be left out altogether is a terrible piece of judgement regardless of the Ribery news.

France will face Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador at the World Cup. Three sides whose best chance of progress is keeping it tight. Even in the French had Ribery in their armoury, having another experienced creative option on the bench would have been wise.

It's down to the manager to handle players' egos. Deschamps' decision to leave Nasri at home was him effectively admitting that he wasn't convinced he could handle the squad.

Deschamps dropped Nasri for the anticipated trouble he would cause; the end result is that leaving the City forward out has had a greater impact on France's hopes before a ball has even been kicked.

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