ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (Reuters) - France have one of the youngest teams at the World Cup, but Kylian Mbappe believes Les Bleus have what it takes to win the title in Russia if they all stick together.
France start their campaign in Group C against Australia in Kazan on Saturday, with the 19-year-old Mbappe and the 21-year-old Ousmane Dembele supporting Antoine Griezmann up front.
“We have young team, yes, but if you look at it, you see we play at Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Juventus, Manchester. Take any big European team, there’s at least one Frenchman,” PSG striker Mbappe told sports daily L’Equipe on Friday.
“Of course we are young but several players already have plenty of experience: Raphael Varane won several (four) Champions League titles with Real, Samuel Umtiti is in the starting 11 at Barca, Paul Pogba played four great seasons at Juve. Youth is an excuse without being an excuse.
“I don’t like to talk about our age. Either you can, or you cannot.”
France are expected to top their group, which also features Denmark and Peru, but Mbappe admitted that they still lag behind Spain, Germany and Brazil, the competition’s top favorites.
“Let’s face it, Brazil, Spain and Germany are a little ahead of us. But on one competition you never know what can happen. We have potential, but if you look at everyone’s trophy list, ours fits on one piece of paper,” he said.
The squad’s mindset, however, can be a big boost for France, according to Mbappe.
“I know the players and nobody is playing for themselves. Everyone wants to win and when you want that, you are ready to make sacrifices for your team mates,” he explained.
“We are a new generation that has just started blooming. Being a true team, what does that mean? Stick together, like each other, being able to run for your team mate.
“Then there is the work of the coach but we have a great coach, there is no worries there,” he said of Didier Deschamps, who captained France to the World Cup title in 1998.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge