France legend and 1998 World Cup winner Laurent Blanc has spoken about his experiences in Qatar ahead of the 2022 tournament, while also discussing the impact Kylian Mbappe and Les Bleus' other stars could have.
Blanc kicked off his international career in February 1989 against the Republic of Ireland before going on to have an extensive career with the French national team. He played an integral role in his country’s 1998 World Cup campaign, scoring against Paraguay as they went on to lift the trophy by beating Brazil 3-0 in an exhilarating final in Paris.
He also lifted Euro 2000 prior to retiring with 97 caps to his name and 16 goals, before embarking on a career in management.
In 2007, Blanc was appointed head coach of Bordeaux, which led to spells in charge of France and latterly Paris Saint-Germain - whom he won a hat-trick of Ligue 1 titles with - and he's now in charge of Qatari side Al-Rayyan.
With the 2022 World Cup looming, Blanc has been doing some promotional work and media interviews about Qatar - and in a recent visit of the Al Thumama Stadium, took time out to discuss France's prospects for 2022, who his country's potential stars may be and the impact that Mbappe could have.
“Yes, they are not far from it. It is not certain yet, but I think the French team will be present in Qatar in 2022 and will be among the favourites," Blanc told AFP.
“I'm not going to be very original in my choices but let's not forget that football is a collective sport. You need a team. If you have good players in this team, it is even better. The French team has prominent players, especially strikers who make the difference and score goals: Mbappé, Benzema, Griezmann, and I could name others.
"But there will also be other nations with top-class players. It is always the good players who perform the show, that's why we must have them to ensure a great World Cup.
“Indeed, he is a boy who is only 21 years old," Blanc added when asked whether Mbappe can make the difference in 2022. "He is very young but has already achieved a lot. And I think he can still progress. Everyone agrees that he still needs to develop even if he is already doing so well.
"I believe that two players have marked the last decades of football: Messi and Ronaldo. Unfortunately, time passes. But I think Kylian is one of the players who can replace them, and he is French, which is good for us!”
Blanc also looked back at his success in 1998, waxing lyrical about the special aura of the World Cup and what it will mean for the country of Qatar.
"The experience, but also the luck, because sometimes it is a must-have to win a trophy. We were talking about it with Xavi, sometimes it's not a big deal. It is an incredible memory. To win a World Cup in your own country is a fantastic adventure.
"You still think about it 10, 20, 30 years later. Even if you don't think about it anymore, people constantly remind you about it. A World Cup is just fabulous. They will live their first one here. I hope there will be many people here because there must be fans and buzz in the stadiums for a thriving World Cup. I hope that will be the case in 2022.”
Referring to Qatar's culture and how he's settled in the country, Blanc continued: “It is a football experience but above all a personal one, in a country with a very different culture. It is an evolving country with a lot of movement, obviously, because of the World Cup. I also came for this particular experience.
"It's fascinating to learn and get to know something new, a new culture. There is progress in football, too, here, and they've come a long way. I hope that the World Cup will give an extra boost because the Qataris love football. It’s important that more Qatari kids get to play football. This World Cup will, perhaps, give them the desire to enjoy sport, which will be an excellent thing.”