France coach Didier Deschamps has revealed his strategy for forming his World Cup squad, and sent a warning to Eric Abidal the experienced defender needs to start playing again if he hopes to go to Brazil.
Deschamps, 45, is currently considering his options with regard to the 23 players he will select to comprise his squad for this summer's World Cup, his first as France national team boss.
With more than 100 caps as a player, and 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winner's medals, Deschamps has first-hand experience of the blend required for a nation to achieve ultimate victory in a major tournament. He told former international teammate Bixente Lizarazu a player's form is not necessarily a factor in earning a seat on the plane to South America.
Deschamps said: "To prepare a list for a final tournament is not merely taking the best players in each position. It's to make a squad able to go as far as possible in the competition. You need a good balance between experience and a little bit of youth, freshness and insouciance. I'm no longer thinking about current form. I'm more focused on the potential of players."
That could be good news for Abidal, 34, who has seen younger defenders such as Raphael Varane, Mamadou Sakho, Laurent Koscielny and Eliaquim Mangala challenge and even ease ahead of him in Deschamps' thinking.
However, though the Monaco defender has 67 caps and a vast array of silverware garnered in an illustrious career, the fact he is struggling to earn a regular starting place for his club, as well as his age, could cost him dear.
"The problem of Abidal is that he's not been active for a month. He had some serious medical concerns before, and he's got some again now, but the most important thing is that he's competitive and is on the pitch," Deschamps said of the former Barcelona man, who has featured in just one of Monaco's last seven league outings.
"All other things being equal, if I have the choice between an older and younger player, I'll go for the younger one looking at what comes after with Euro 2016. When I make a list for a final tournament, it's not like making a list for a friendly game. There are other, different criteria that come into consideration."