Second country | Chelsea edition
The links between Chelsea and France run deeper than their colours and nickname.
Welcome to the second instalment of Second Country. Last time we proposed that Brazil were the perfect team for City fans to support, and this time round we’re taking a look at who Chelsea fans ought to root for this summer.
Turns out the answer is very close to home.
Whichever way you look at it, Chelsea had a tricky season last year. Beginning as defending champions, The Blues then proceeded to stutter to 5th place. What’s more, it’s a miracle Antonio Conte is still in charge, considering the vultures that were hovering even before Christmas. Despite all the uncertainty however, Chelsea did manage to pull together a cup run at just the right time, winning the FA Cup in impressive fashion.
One of the linchpins for that cup run was Olivier Giroud, the French marksman who ended the season as a key player for Chelsea. The last 6 months have been hugely positive for Giroud, vindicating his decision to move across London in January in order to enhance his chances for a starting place in the French team at the World Cup.
His place in the squad was never really in doubt, even with the wealth of attacking options at Didier Deschamp’s disposal. The very fact both Benzema and Lacazette are not in Russia speaks volumes. But what’s even more impressive about Giroud is that he continues to deliver year after year for his country in a way most strikers can only dream of. With 31 goals in 74 international games, he is likely to start in Russia as an experienced counterpoint to the dynamic duo of Mbappé and Dembélé.
Giroud is not the only player Chelsea fans should be keeping an eye on. N'Golo Kanté is another Blues player likely to start for his country, which is equally impressive given the talent France have. Despite a relatively quiet year by his own standards, Kanté remains an imperious presence in the middle of the park for club and country. Like Giroud he faces stiff competition, most notably from Bayern Munich maestro Corentin Tolisso and Juve anchorman Blaise Matuidi, but like his club teammate he is favourite to start for the first game against Australia.
Both Giroud and Kanté deserve high praise for playing their way into one of the best teams at the World Cup, despite turbulent years on the club scene. A successful summer for the pair will give Blues fans plenty of optimism going into next season, no matter who’s in the dugout.
Chelsea are bringing a healthy 14 players to the World Cup, and France’s neighbours Belgium are another team with a strong contingent of Blues players. If Belgium are going to finally exorcise their tournament demons, you can bet Hazard, Courtois and Batshuayi will have a key part to play.
Elsewhere, Rudiger, Willian, Azpilicueta, Christensen and Willy Caballero are all representing their respective countries. Look out also for Victor Moses and perennial lonee Kenneth Omeruo in an exciting young Nigeria side.
Support Les Bleus with a brand new home shirt
Pick up the classy new France shirt from Nike today.