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France assistant coach insists benching Benjamin Pavard was purely tactical

Pavard isn’t too happy about being benched, but there’s no bad blood between the defender and France’s staff.

Tunisia v France: Group D - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Sarah Stier - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard has not played for France at the World Cup in Qatar since their opening group stage match against Australia, which they won 4-1. Lucas Hernandez suffered his ACL tear during that same match and Pavard played 89 minutes before being replaced by FC Barcelona’s Jules Koundé.

Since the win over Australia, Pavard has not even made a substitute appearance for France and Didier Deschamps has shown a preference to starting Koundé at right back, though AS Monaco’s Axel Diasi was given a chance for France’s 1-0 loss to Tunisia. For that match, France had already secured their progression to the knockout stages, so Deschamps made the decision to make a bevy of rotations ahead of the round of 16 win over Poland. Next up for France is a quarter-final clash against England.

Pavard is justifiably unhappy with the Deschamps’ decision to bench him, similar to a situation he went through earlier this season for Bayern when Julian Nagelsmann showed a preference to starting Noussair Mazraoui for a handful of matches towards the end of the Hinrunde. Despite Pavard’s frustration, Deschamps’ assistant manager for France, Guy Stéphan insisted in a recent press conference that the decision to bench Pavard was purely tactical.

“Benjamin is not playing, but he’s training and behaving well. I spoke to him a bit. Obviously, he’s disappointed, it’s a sporting choice that was made. The future will tell if he will come back (to the national team) or not,” Stéphan said when he was asked about the status of the Bayern defender (via @iMiaSanMia).

For Pavard, this is all too similar to the situation he went through earlier at Bayern, but part of that stems from his reported preference to play center back instead of right back. With Dayot Upamecano, Matthijs de Ligt, and Hernandez already in the ranks, it was harder to see too many opportunities to play at right back, though that could now change given Hernandez’s ACL tear.

At France, the situation is similar with Upamecano, Raphael Varane (Manchester United), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool FC), William Saliba (Arsenal FC), and Theo Hernandez (AC Milan) in the ranks for the defending World Cup champions. It’s unfortunate for him that Deschamps and his staff have made the decision to choose Koundé at right back, but it’s hard to fault decisions that have clearly paid dividends as the French still look to be one of the tournament’s favorites.

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