PARIS - France coach Didier Deschamps is hopeful of having most of his players fit before the World Cup as they face a number of injury-related absences ahead of their Nations League matches.
More than a dozen players are missing for Thursday's home game against Austria and Sunday's trip to Denmark, less than two months before Les Bleus start the defence of their World Cup title in Qatar.
Among the absentees is midfielder Paul Pogba, who is a major doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery, along with striker Karim Benzema, centre back Presnel Kimpembe, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and defender Theo Hernandez.
Deschamps once again pointed to an overcrowded schedule.
"Football is a contact sport, there can be injuries from shocks. Like other players of other nationalities, the succession of matches with a lot of intensity puts more strain on the body and there are greater risks," he told a news conference on Wednesday.
"Obviously, we are affected more than usual, but the number of injuries over the last few years has been increasing. I hope that in two months' time the situation will be much better for all the players."
Stand-in captain Raphael Varane also hit out at the number of matches players are involved in.
"We shouldn't be surprised, we've been talking for years about an overloaded calendar, about players being tired," the centre back said.
"All the big European club coaches talk about it. This season is even more intense than usual, so unfortunately we are not surprised. Then we have to adapt."
France face an uphill task to stay in League A of the Nations League as they are currently bottom of Group 1 with two points from four matches. REUTERS