Arsenal star William Saliba predicted he would not play for France in the opening match of Euro 2024
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Arsenal star William Saliba predicted he would not play for France in the opening match of Euro 2024

William Saliba is unlikely to start as a central defender for France in the opening match of Euro 2024 against Austria.

This is according to French football expert Julien Laurens, who also told talkSPORT about how Les Bleus could position themselves in this clash.

Saliba may miss his first match for France at Euro 2024Source: Getty

Didier Deschamps’s team will go to Germany as one of the favorites to win Euro 2024 this summer thanks to their enormous talent.

Saliba was selected for their squad after another impressive season at Arsenal, in which he played in all 38 of the team’s Premier League matches.

However, the 23-year-old has made just eight appearances for France in 15 appearances and Laurens suggested that trend could continue at the European Championships.

In a conversation with Hawksbee and Jacobs about whether Deschamps had found a blind spot in the Saliba case, he said: “There are two big debates, this one and the one with Kylian Mbappe, about why he should defend or not, that’s another one.

“But on the first you are right, defensively it seems that will be the case for the first match against Austria next week, that (Ibrahim) Konate and (Dayot) Upamecano will be the starting centre-backs for that match.

“And that William Saliba, who we will see on the bench. The other night he was outstanding in a draw against Canada. He started and played for 60 minutes, first with Upamecano, and then Konate came on for about half an hour.

“He played with them and was certainly the best of the three, but according to Deschamps, Konate and Upamecano played together more and he thinks they complement each other very much.

“And as he said at the press conference in March, there are still things about William’s game that he wants to see improved, so at the moment he’s still in the pecking order where I think a lot of people think he should be. First.”

Saliba is a regular for Arsenal, but in France it’s a different storySource: Getty
Laurens explained why Deschamps might put him on the benchSource: talkSPORT
Upamecano and Konate could be the pair of choice at centre-backSource: Getty

Laurens was then asked to reveal what he expected France to be, with their first clash against Austria taking place on Monday 17 June.

“It will be 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3,” he said. “Depending on (Antoine) Griezmann’s position, but I think in midfield he will have a lot of freedom with or without the ball.

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“But then the back four will be (Jules) Kounde at right back, who is not really a right back, he is a center back and would be a very defensive right back because you have a very attacking left back on the other side in Theo Hernandez.

“Then you choose two from Upamecano, Konate and Saliba. I would choose Saliba and Konate, Deschamps will probably choose Upamecano before Saliba, but that could change too.

“N’Golo Kante returns to the national team after two years of absence. The season in Saudi Arabia clearly convinced Deschamps that he could still call him. He did very well in the two friendlies he played, so Kante will be there ahead of the defence.

“I think he will have (Adrien) Rabiot next to him when he is fit, or (Aurelien) Tchouameni when he is fit, for now it will be (Youssouf) Fofana in the first match against Austria and then Griezmann.

Here’s the lineup France could play against Austria at Euro 2024…

“And then the front three, there are a lot of options, (Bradley) Barcola, (Marcus) Thuram, (Ousmane) Dembele, (Kingsley) Coman and of course Kylian. In our opinion, Mbappe will play in the middle, Thuram on the left because Mbappe does not want to defend, and Dembele will play on the right.

“So imagine a left-back who really attacks in Theo Hernandez, Thuram as a left winger who often comes inside, Mbappe playing on his own and Griezmann playing in midfield.

“And then on the right side, Kounde is very defensive and Dembele is really causing chaos with the whole right side. I think it’s a pretty good, balanced and talented team.”

France will face the Netherlands and Poland in the remaining Group D matches, with the two-time winners having a chance to win European glory for the first time since 2000 this summer.