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May 27, 2014

Mamadou Sakho to captain France

Defender Mamadou Sakho will lead France in a friendly against Norway on Tuesday ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

France coach Didier Deschamps claimed Mamadou Sakho is a "natural" leader as the Liverpool defender will captain his nation for the first time in Tuesday's friendly with Norway.

- Johnson: Les Bleus set to test squad
- France upbeat over Benzema fitness

Sakho, 24, was surprisingly named captain of former club Paris Saint-Germain aged 17, and will now take the armband of his country with Hugo Lloris rested for Les Bleus' first World Cup warm-up friendly.

Though the game at the Stade de France will mark just his 17th appearance for his country, Sakho has already earned himself sufficient respect from squad elders to be named vice-captain to Lloris for the World Cup to come.

Deschamps said that Sakho's influence on the team had been seen when he scored twice in France's thrilling 3-0 second-leg playoff triumph over Ukraine that clinched their ticket for Brazil.

"It's a whole bunch of things from what he does on the pitch to how he is off it. It's something natural for him, I don't want to hold him back. On the contrary actually," Deschamps told media at his squad's training camp at Clairefontaine, just outside Paris.

"In the first leg [vs. Ukraine], he wasn't there. But he was there in the return, and now he is in full form."

With Sakho's likely partner for the opening World Cup group stage game against Honduras on June 15, Raphael Varane, only teaming up with the squad on Wednesday following Real Madrid's Champions League triumph, Laurent Koscielny may partner him in defence at the Stade de France.

France's other Champions League winner, Karim Benzema, will be replaced by Olivier Giroud in the central striking role of Deschamps' 4-3-3 formation with Antoine Griezmann starting on the left side of attack to give Franck Ribery time to recover from a sapping campaign with Bayern Munich.

Deschamps will, however, name his first-choice midfield of Yohan Cabaye, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi at kick-off, and though two further friendlies remain, acknowledged he would keep changes to a minimum.

"We'll see. It might happen that I change the system at half-time, for example," said the 1998 World Cup winner, whose squad play Paraguay in Nice on June 1 before taking on Jamaica in Lille a week later just prior to their departure for South America.

"But the 23 I have selected have been here for two years, and they know the systems used," he added.

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