N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud return to Stamford Bridge as World Cup winners, with both Chelsea players having performed vital roles for Didier Deschamps’ France in Russia.
Chelsea were one of the clubs with the most representatives in the recently concluded tournament with 14, but it was the French duo of Kante and Giroud who go back to West London the happiest of the bunch, as their native France beat Croatia 4-2 in the final at Moscow to win football’s biggest prize. While Les Bleus went into the tournament as one of the favourites to go all the way, questions remained on whether Deschamps could forge one of the most talented squads in the tournament as one cohesive unit. However, they chose the right time to peak, improving game after game by adding strong defensive organisation to a world-class attack with both Kante and Giroud playing integral roles.
Kante the midfield lynchpin
Kante featured for the France midfield in all seven matches, completing every match except the final, where he reportedly suffered from a stomach problem. While this affected his performance against the Croats, Kante has already proven his worth for Les Bleus in the past matches. He performed as a proper midfield lynchpin for Deschamps, operating as the main screen for the French back four with his great anticipation skills accompanying his natural pace. At times, the 27-year-old midfielder even assumed man-marking duties, most notably against Lionel Messi whom he kept quiet in their round of 16 match against Argentina. Also, his extraordinary ability to cover a lot of ground lessened the defensive load of Pogba who orchestrated play for France in the middle of the pitch.
Giroud the target man
On the other hand, Giroud started from the bench in their opener against Australia and only came on as a substitute but since then, the 31-year-old started in every game for France. Like Kante, Giroud failed to score a goal for France in the whole tournament despite being the man leading the line for France. Nevertheless, he was instrumental in the French attack. Giroud played as a classic target man, utilising his size and strength to great effect. His sheer physical presence upfront meant defenders needed to pay close attention, meaning spaces opened up for the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe to cause serious problems in the final third. Apart from this, he demonstrated amazing hold-up play which allowed teammates to join him in attack, while also having one of the deftest touches for a big centre forward.
Chelsea can count themselves lucky to have two key players of that magnificent French national side in the club’s ranks. The experience Kante and Giroud garnered in performing at the biggest stage of world football will prove vital for Chelsea. They return to Stamford Bridge as World Cup champions and the hope is that they can imbibe that winning mentality to the rest of the squad. Hopefully, this will reinvigorate the players’ spirits following a dismal season and will drive them to make another charge for the title in the upcoming Premier League campaign.