Football Features

Where are they now? France’s outrageously talented U-20 World Cup winners from 2013

By Squawka News

Published: 14:12, 15 July 2019 | Updated: 20:50, 20 July 2019

They say success breeds success and that old adage certainly rings true in football. 

Success internationally at youth level has often enabled a country to build for the future, with many of their young stars going on to cement their place in the senior rank.

The 2014 World Cup winners, Germany, for instance, relied upon a core of players who were victorious at the 2009 Under-21 European Championships: Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil.

While in 2013, at the Under-20 World Cup, France won the title after defeating a resilient Uruguay side 4-1 on penalties and many members of that side have since graduated into Didier Deschamps’ senior squad, winning the big prize with the French squad at Russia 2018.

That isn’t the case for all of those who featured regularly during France’s tournament win, however, and it’s fair to say their young prodigies have enjoyed mixed success since the final in Istanbul six years ago.

So, which players were able to push on since Istanbul and play a part in Didier Deschamps’ World Cup-winning senior squad?

Goalkeeper: Alphonse Areola

Age: 26

Club: PSG

Senior caps: 3

Major honours: Ligue 1 (2012/13, 2017/18, 2018/19), Coupe de la Ligue (2016/17, 2017/18), Coupe de France (2016/17, 2017/18), Trophee des Champions (2016, 2017), World Cup (2018)

Areola excelled while on loan at Villarreal during the 2015-16 season, keeping 15 clean sheets in 32 games to help the club finish fourth in La Liga. Since then, he’s made 72 appearances in all competitions while challenging Kevin Trapp and Gianluigi Buffon for the No.1 shirt at PSG. Areola was in and out of the PSG team last season but the departure of Buffon to Juventus could see the goalkeeper become a more regular fixture between the sticks.

Having been included in the World Cup-winning squad, Areola became the first player to make his debut for France after lifting the trophy and did not disappoint, making a rare six saves against 2014 champions Germany.

Right Back: Dimitri Foulquier

Age: 25

Club: Watford

Senior apps: 0

Major honours: 0

A regular player for Les Bleus at all age groups until the seniors, Dimitri Foulquier had been playing his football in La Liga with Granada who, like Watford and Udinese, are owned by the Pozzo family.

While senior international football has so far eluded Foulquier, he has performed well in La Liga over the past few years. He signed for Watford in the summer of 2017 but was immediately loaned out to RC Strasbourg before returning to Spain last season, this time with Getafe on another year-long loan deal. He chipped in with three goals and three assists in an impressive season with the club. Where his future lies remains to be seen.

Centre Back: Kurt Zouma

Age: 24

Club: Chelsea

Senior apps: 

Major honours: Coupe de la Ligue (2012/13), Premier League (2014/15), (2016/17), League Cup (2014/15)

At 18, Kurt Zouma was the youngest member of the French squad in 2013 but he was an undisputed starter and key man in the back four nevertheless.

Just six months after lifting the U-20 World Cup, Zouma made a £12m move to Chelsea where he has continued to develop at an impressive rate.

Zouma would have been in contention to make the France squad for Euro 2016 had he not been ruled out of the tournament with a knee ligament injury.

He has made 71 appearances for the Blues, though he has found starts hard to come by more recently and spent the 2017/18 season on loan at Stoke City. However, his 34 Premier League appearances were not enough to help the Staffordshire club avoid relegation.

Zouma excelled last season on loan at Everton, making 32 appearances for the Toffees across all competitions and reigniting his international career. He has since returned to Chelsea but reports linking him with a return to Everton persist. Whether or not he features in Frank Lampard’s plans remains to be seen.

Centre Back: Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr

Age: 25

Club: Charlton Athletic

Senior apps: 0

Major honours: Taca de Portugal (2014/15)

Replacing Umtiti in France’s defence against Uruguay was his then-Lyon colleague, Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr.

Sarr didn’t stick around at the French club for too long, though, moving to Sporting Lisbon in 2014 and then to Charlton Athletic a year later.

And following the Addicks’ relegation to League One, Sarr joined Ligue 2 side Red Star FC on a season-long loan deal in June 2016.

The player is now back at Charlton, where he was ever-present in their successful play-off campaign.

Left Back: Lucas Digne

Age: 25

Club: Everton

Senior apps: 24

Major honours: Ligue 1 (2013/14, 2014/15), Coupe de la Ligue (2013-14, 2014/15), Copa del Rey (2016/17, 2017/18), Supercopa de Espana (2016), La Liga (2017/18)

Lucas Digne has graduated into France’s senior ranks, making 24 international appearances and he was in the squad for the 2014 World Cup, as well as the 2016 European Championships.

The marauding full-back’s career stalled during a spell at PSG but he regained his best form while on loan with Roma four seasons ago, scoring three goals and creating 26 chances for Serie A’s third-placed team.

Digne joined Barcelona in the summer of 2016 and made 46 appearances for the Catalan giants before joining Kurt Zouma at the Toffees, although the left-back’s move was a permanent switch, and he was one of the standout performers under Marco Silva last term.

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Centre Midfield: Geoffrey Kondogbia

Age: 26

Club: Valencia

Senior apps: 5

Major honours: Uefa Europa League (2013-14)

A talented midfield dynamo, Geoffrey Kondogbia has already accumulated a total of £76.50m in transfer fees after moving from Lens, to Sevilla, to Monaco. to Inter and, then, to Valencia in 2017 – a move made permanent in 2018.

Despite playing regularly at all of the aforementioned clubs, Kondogbia has found it difficult to break into the France squad over the past couple of years, making just five appearances for Les Bleus.

In fact, as all five of Kondogbia’s appearances were in friendlies, the midfielder was able to switch allegiance to the Central African Republic. He made his first appearance for his new nation, as captain, against Ivory Coast in October 2018.

Centre Midfield: Paul Pogba

Age: 25

Club: Manchester United

Senior apps: 67

Major honours: Serie A (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16), Coppa Italia (2014/15, 2015/16), League Cup (2016/17), Uefa Europa League (2016/17), World Cup (2018)

Paul Pogba captained France to their success and was given the Golden Ball award afterwards. Undoubtedly the most successful and high-profile member of that U-20 side, Pogba is the only current regular in Deschamps’ team.

A stuttering but successful penalty in the final shootout demonstrated that Pogba was a man for the big occasion and after four successful years at Juventus, he became, for a period, the most expensive footballer in history when Manchester United parted with £89 million to acquire his signature.

He generally performed well for United under former boss Jose Mourinho, though their relationship eventually broke down and he has since been a revelation under caretaker manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. For France, Pogba has continued to impress and was instrumental in Les Bleus’ journey to World Cup glory.

Pogba managed to hit double figures for goals and assists last season but is reportedly keen on a move away from Manchester.

Centre Midfield: Jordan Veretout

Age: 25

Club: Roma

Senior apps: 0

Major honours: Ligue 2 (2012/13)

Lining up alongside Pogba and Kondogbia was Jordan Veretout, then of FC Nantes. A cultured playmaker with an eye for a pass, Veretout was very highly rated in his homeland and earned a move to the Premier League with Aston Villa in 2015.

In hindsight, the decision to move to the Midlands was a disastrous one, as Veretout was part of one of the worst teams ever to grace England’s top tier, with Villa managing only 17 points en route to relegation.

He’s since signed for AS Roma having performed well in Serie A for Fiorentina, making 75 appearances and scoring 15 goals across all competitions for La Viola.

Right Wing: Jean-Christophe Bahebeck

Age: 25

Club: Utrecht

Senior apps: 0

Major honours: Ligue 1 (2014/15), Coupe de la Ligue (2014/15), Coupe de France (2014-15)

A star at U-20 level for France, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck is another uncapped player at senior level after failing to truly establish himself at PSG.

Bahebeck, who is also eligible to play for Cameroon, has spent time away from the Parc des Princes on loan at Troyes, Valenciennes, Saint-Etienne and now Utrecht, who he joined permanently on the final day of the 2018 summer window. He scored twice in the Europa League play-offs to ensure Utrecht will be playing European football next campaign.

Left Wing: Florian Thauvin

Age: 26

Club: Marseille

Senior apps: 10

Major honours: Ligue 2 (2011/12), World Cup (2018)

Tipped for big things as a youngster after bursting onto the scene at Bastia, Florian Thauvin’s career stalled following an expensive move to Newcastle in 2015.

The talented winger was loaned to Marseille for the season in the summer of 2016 and has since signed for them permanently, where he is fulfilling the potential he showed in 2013. He scored 26 goals across all competitions in 2017/18 and played one minute of France’s 2018 World Cup-winning campaign, replacing the formidable Kylian Mbappe in the 89th minute of the 4-3 win against Argentina.

He followed this up with another 16 goals in Ligue 1 last season and is reportedly looking to make the step up to a big European side.

Striker: Yaya Sanogo

Age: 26

Club: Toulouse

Senior apps: 0

Major honours: FA Cup (2013/14)

It says it all that Yaya Sanogo has only scored nine club goals in competitive fixtures since the U-20 World Cup three years ago – a tournament where he top-scored for France with four.

Soon after that competition, Sanogo earned a move to Arsenal but after failing to gain regular first-team football – and suffering from injuries – Sanogo has spent loan spells with Crystal Palace, Ajax and Charlton Athletic with mixed success. He left Arsenal to join Toulouse in the summer of 2017.

Suspended: Samuel Umtiti

Age: 25

Club: Barcelona

Senior apps: 31

Major honours: Coupe de France (2011/12), Copa del Rey (2016-17, 2017/18), Supercopa de Espana (2016), La Liga (2017/18, 2018/19), World Cup (2018)

Samuel Umtiti was suspended for the final after he was sent off in the semi-final against Ghana. Despite being only 19 at the time of the tournament, Umtiti had already amassed 50 appearances for Lyon in all competitions.

The ball-playing centre-back remained a key part of Les Gones’ backline up until June 2016 when he joined Barcelona in a £21m deal.

Umtiti was part of France’s Euro 2016 squad and made his debut in their 5-2 quarter-final win over Iceland, playing the full 90 minutes.

He is now a fully-fledged member of Didier Deschamps’ starting XI and scored the winning goal against Belgium in the semi-final of France’s World Cup triumph in 2018.

Umtiti has seen his game time limited at Barcelona due to injury and the emergence of compatriot Clement Lenglet.

Unused sub: Mario Lemina

Age: 25

Club: Southampton

Senior apps: 15 for Gabon

Major honours: Serie A (2015/16, 2016/17), Coppa Italia (2015/16, 2016/17)

Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva and Southampton’s Mario Lemina

Mario Lemina was an unused substitute in the final but he has since gone on to become one of the most successful players in the squad, joining Juventus for £8m in 2015.

The midfielder decided to represent Gabon internationally and has played 15 times for the Panthers, scoring three goals.

Lemina now plays for Southampton but has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal and Manchester United this summer after saying he wants to leave St. Mary’s.