France’s friendly internationals against Brazil and Denmark provided a good opportunity for two potential partners for Raphael Varane to demonstrate their capabilities to Bleus coach Didier Deschamps.
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Real Madrid’s former Racing Club de Lens stopper Varane is an undisputed starter for France, but alongside him, both Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sakho of Liverpool will both be hoping to nail down a spot in the first XI ahead of the 2016 European Championships.
Both men were given an opportunity to impress in the recent friendlies.
Sakho featured in defeat against Brazil, while Koscielny was given a run out in the victory over Denmark.
There is a case to be made for either man; the Gunners defender has been the more impressive in the Premier League so far this season.
He has averaged 3.6 interceptions-per-match, 1.1 tackle-per-match and won 3.3 aerial battles-per-match in the Premier League, compared to 1.5, 1.9 and 2.4 respectively for Sakho [via WhoScored]. The Liverpool man is improving with the ball at his feet, but failed to keep Brazil at bay from set pieces during the midweek qualifier.
While much can change over the next year, there is reason to keep faith in Sakho.
The Reds centre-back is four years younger than Koscielny, and while the Arsenal man will be 32 for the World Cup in Russia in 2018, Sakho will be just approaching his prime.
Similarly, as he has demonstrated for Liverpool this season, Sakho can play effectively in a back three, as a left-back or as one of two centre-backs in a back four.
This versatility, his constant improvement and the fact that age is on his side pushes him slightly ahead of Koscielny in the race to partner Varane.