France not at full strength for Norway friendly
Paris: France`s World Cup squad will emerge from the isolation of their secluded training base to play Norway on Tuesday in the first of three friendlies before departing for Brazil.
Didier Deschamps` squad have spent the last week working at Clairefontaine, the national football centre hidden away in the woods an hour`s drive south of the capital.
Such peaceful surroundings could hardly feel further removed from what awaits them in Brazil, but when they take to the field against the Norwegians at the Stade de France they will start to feel like the World Cup is finally just around the corner.
Les Bleus begin their Group E campaign against Honduras in Porto Alegre on Sunday, June 15, before going on to face Switzerland and Ecuador.
To prepare, Deschamps` side have three friendlies lined up on home soil, with the Norway clash followed by encounters with Paraguay in Nice next Sunday and Jamaica in Lille on June 8.
"It is the biggest competition that any player can imagine taking part in. It is a boyhood dream come true," admitted the Newcastle United midfielder Moussa Sissoko when asked what it means to participate in a World Cup on Brazilian soil.
To get there, France needed a dramatic play-off win against Ukraine back in November, when they triumphed 3-0 to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit, and now Sissoko is hoping to give fans at home more to shout about in the coming warm-up matches.
"We want to continue along the same lines and try to win all of these games. These are three important matches to us in the build-up to the World Cup," added Sissoko.
The team that faces Norway on Tuesday will almost certainly not be that which takes to the field against Honduras, with Franck Ribery having sat out collective training over the weekend because of a back problem.
In addition, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane will both arrive at the team camp on Wednesday having been given a short break after helping Real Madrid win the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid in Lisbon on Saturday.
The likes of Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann and Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, who has replaced the injured Steve Mandanda in the squad, could therefore start.
Meanwhile, the six players on Deschamps' standby list will leave the rest of the squad on Wednesday, so this might be their one chance to impress before departing for their summer break.
For the likes of Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons and Montpellier attacking midfielder Remy Cabella, the last week has been about ensuring that they remain in the coach's plans going forward to Euro 2016 on home soil.
"I'm not disappointed," said the highly-rated Cabella when asked about missing out on the final 23-man squad. "I am preparing myself fully to be ready if needed.
Cabella admitted that team spirit has been good, perhaps aided by the absence of the divisive Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri, who was omitted from the squad by Deschamps.
"The atmosphere is good. It is important that everyone gets on well with one another and everyone is happy and smiling," he said.
The 24-year-old Cabella also emphasised his hope that Les Bleus can go on to win the World Cup for the second time, but it may not be too easy to gauge their prospects against a Norway side ranked joint-55th in the world just now.
Per-Mathias Hogmo's Norway won just three times before finishing fourth in their World Cup qualifying group, which was topped by Switzerland, and have registered a solitary victory in their last eight outings.