Whisper it. But something (bad) is going on with the world champions.
In case you missed it so far in the international break France have been held to two 1-1 draws - at home against Bosnia & Herzegovina and away at Ukraine.
Didier Deschamps’ side are still top of their qualification group. However, Finland sit second - four points adrift but with two games in hand - and they meet in Lyon on Tuesday.
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Didier Deschamps sur le banc de l'équipe de France face à l'Ukraine

Image credit: Getty Images

Speaking after the Ukraine draw Deschamps said: "You have external impressions which are not the same as from the inside.
There really is no problem on this side of things.
"I can assure you the group is concentrated, even if we are in a period with less success. Everything is linked in terms of confidence and success."
He doubled down in the same interview with Téléfoot saying: “There is nothing to worry about.”
In many ways he’s not wrong. France will - on the balance of probabilities - qualify for Qatar 2022. However, there is a real risk of them exiting that tournament with a whimper, as they did at Euro 2020.

Hugo Lloris - Ukraine-France 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

To try to find out more about what is happening we got in touch with our colleague from Eurosport France, Martin Mosnier.
To start with we simply asked where it’s all going wrong. This is Mosnier’s response:
“There are several explanations. First, Didier Deschamps is, in my opinion, mainly responsible for France's struggles. He has less authority over the group and some players are playing out of position and he often uses a system that does not suit the players. As a result, the team are lacking confidence.”
Mosnier’s point on Deschamps corresponds with a report from L’Equipe that claims Deschamps has lost control of the dressing room. L’Equipe claims that Deschamps - often cast as an authoritarian - has softened his approach and is giving the players more freedom.

When will Deschamps step down as France manager?

Zinedine Zidane's break from management is widely reported to facilitate his appointment as national team coach in the near future. So, could Deschamps be replaced before the Qatar World Cup?

Zinédine Zidane

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“No because Deschamps is a legend," adds Mosnier.
“He will be in charge at the World Cup in Qatar, but his reputation - as a serial winner - has taken a hit. And it is now obvious that Zidane will replace him faster than expected.“

Griezmann's struggle continues

So - Deschamps aside - what is specifically going wrong? For Mosnier the big problem is Antoine Griezmann, whose poor club form has carried over to the international stage.
“Benzema's return changed Griezmann's role and that's the biggest problem for the team today,” Mosnier says.
“Since 2014, Griezmann was the most important player for Les Bleus (he was the top scorer, best passer and its leader).
Without a great Griezmann, this team loses a lot of its threat.
“Benzema can't be blamed - he had a good Euros - but Griezmann has had a bad time since his return. Griezmann was previously the man who made the difference. He created and he scored. Now it's over.
“Also, Mbappé isn't as effective as he is for PSG: today, the tactical plan seem to be: long assists from Paul Pogba - for Benzema or Mbappé to latch on to - and let's see what happens…”

Griezmann

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In the aforementioned report from L’Equipe it says that Deschamps is considering moving back to a 4-2-3-1, with Griezmann moving back to his preferred No 10 role. But Mosnier doesn’t think that will make much of a difference.
It is not a question of system, for me. In 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 - with or without Mbappé, with or without Benzema - Griezmann has completely lost confidence.
“With his club and now with his country. He's been lost since Benzema returned - perhaps because he sees his role called into question. This is the most serious problem for Deschamps.”
Only one team qualifies from the group automatically, so if France stumble against Finland it could get awkward very quickly. They have two games after Tuesday. The first - at home to Kazakhstan - should be navigated with ease. However, they finish with a trip to Helsinki in November. That is a tough ask and - on current form - and even tougher ask.
France have the most talented collection of players bar none. However, their struggles are a good example of just how important a manager is. This is shaping up to be one of Deschamps’ biggest tests and as Mosnier said, it could end up impacting his legacy.
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