Brendan Rodgers: Moussa Dembele can play way to World Cup

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, right, with Moussa Dembele. Picture: SNS
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, right, with Moussa Dembele. Picture: SNS
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Moussa Dembele has been backed by Brendan Rodgers
to force his way into the France squad for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.

The 21-year-old Celtic striker pressed his claims for a call-up to his country’s senior squad when he scored a hat-trick for their under-21s against Slovenia earlier this week. Dembele has now netted seven times in ten appearances at that level for France.

He faces stiff competition to book a place in French coach Didier Deschamps’ plans for the 2018 World Cup, with high profile front men such as Antoine Greizmann, Alexandre Lacazette, Kylian Mbappe, Anthony Martial and 
Olivier Giroud all likely to be included.

But Rodgers believes Dembele, who has scored five goals in his last five games for Celtic since returning from a lengthy injury lay-off, can catch Deschamps’ eye by performing well for the Scottish champions in their remaining Champions League games and – if they finish third in their group – a run in the Europa League after Christmas.

“That’s something which can certainly get him the opportunity,” said Rodgers. “Then you can do no more.

“Moussa is now up to speed in his fitness. He’s scoring goals for his club and got a great hat-trick for the France under-21s on Monday. It looks like he is developing and continuing – he can do no more.

“The only thing is that there is a group of really, really talented players in front of him in the France squad at the moment. But if he keeps knocking on the door, you never know. It may open for him.

“For all those boys, between now and the end of the season, they will want to be in with a chance of that. To do that, they need to play well. I’ve spoken to the French manager before but I’m not in regular contact with him.

“It has just been a process with Moussa this season after his injury. You saw when he came back that he was fit but he wasn’t football fit. He didn’t quite have that sharpness. But gradually he has been working and moving better.”