5 French players who need stellar seasons to ensure World Cup spots

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REUTERS/Robert Pratta

The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks off in a little more than eight months, and a handful of German internationals with caps under their belts face missing out on the quadrennial contest because of their domestic standing.

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Here's a look at five Les Bleus charges who need cracking campaigns to cement inclusion in Didier Deschamps' 23-man squad for the trip to Russia.

Anthony Martial

He loves me, he loves me not: such is Anthony Martial's standing with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho. The 21-year-old forward's World Cup hopes are clouded by both a crowded attack at United and an even more congested front line with France.

With just one start in the league paired with five substitute's appearances, the onetime world's most expensive teenager has made the most of his opportunities, banging in a trio of goals while registering two assists. Apparently that wasn't enough for Les Bleus boss Deschamps, who did not summon the Lyon academy grad for a critical pair of upcoming World Cup qualifiers. He opted instead for Kingsley Coman, whose inclusion continues to confound.

Moussa Sissoko

For all of his detractors, Moussa Sissoko played a pivotal part in France's Euro 2016 pursuit, and despite struggling to secure regular minutes at Tottenham, the 28-year-old remains a part of Deschamps' plans.

Deschamps' opinion should be the only one that matters to the oft-maligned winger, but how long can he remain in favour? Sissoko was again named to the squad for upcoming clashes with Belarus and Bulgaria - partly due to his service for the World Cup favourite, but partly due to a dearth of right-sided wingers in light of Ousmane Dembele's injury. Dembele, Paul Pogba, and Tiemoue Bakayoko are all missing out this time around. If Sissoko can't develop a bigger role with Spurs, he'll likely be the odd man out when that trio makes Deschamps' squad for the trip to Russia.

Yohan Cabaye

Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye was named to the squad for Euro 2016 after a decent campaign with the Eagles and made two appearances, playing the full 90 minutes against Switzerland and as an injury-time sub versus Germany.

The 31-year-old Lille academy product had an understandably tough time breaching a midfield of N'Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, and Pogba. Now, Cabaye's sliding down the depth chart courtesy of two factors: 1) Corentin Tolisso's emergence and 2) Palace is utterly rubbish. Cabaye has not been called up for France's final two qualifiers, and sadly for the dead-ball specialist and purveyor of protracted passes, it appears his spell as a French international is in the rearview.

Lucas Digne

There are few top-flight footballers as fortunate as Lucas Digne. The full-back won five trophies with Paris Saint-Germain before moving on loan to Roma, and now with Barcelona, the 24-year-old has been afforded the opportunity to play alongside his generation's greatest footballers.

Similarly, Digne continues to get the nod for his country, and again, the left-back made the 24-man squad for the upcoming qualifiers. His enduring spot may be at risk for Russia, however, with Benjamin Mendy set for first-choice left-back duties on return from injury. That will leave Digne competing directly with Layvin Kurzawa for backup duties.

Dimitri Payet

Like Les Bleus brethren Sissoko and Cabaye, Marseille free-kick savant Dimitri Payet may not be able to maintain his spot in Russia courtesy of the emergence of the next generation of French stars.

Both Payet, 30, and OM mate Florian Thauvin are in the current squad, but based purely on form, the latter merits a World Cup place over his faux-hawked teammate. A mercurial attacking mid who pairs stellar performances with disheartening displays, Payet may miss out when Dembele returns from injury as Deschamps is blessed with an abundance of left-sided attackers, including Thomas Lemar and Nabil Fekir.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)