THE dates are yet to be announced, but for Allan Saint-Maximin the countdown to the 2026 World Cup has already begun.
The French magician from Newcastle has a mission – to be Kylian Mbappe’s accomplice when Les Bleus launch their campaign in North America.
The 25-year-old Saint-Maximin was set to join Didier Deschamps’ squad for Qatar only because injuries ended his chances.
But the fit striker has already recovered from the disappointment with a striking performance off the bench in Newcastle’s 1-0 Carabao Cup win over Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Saint-Maximin is good friends with World Cup hat-trick hero Mbappe and wingers Ousmane Dembele and Marcus Thuram.
And with players like 36-year-old striker Olivier Giroud unlikely to feature in three and a half years from now, Saint-Maximin knows the time could be right to break into his country’s squad.
He said: “Playing for France would mean everything to me.
“I hope that one day I’ll have the chance to show my qualities for Les Bleus. Of course it won’t be easy. Everyone saw the character of the players in the World Cup final and it’s a team full of talent.
“But if I keep working hard and playing well for Newcastle I hope to be noticed.
“It’s not like I’m in a small club. We’re third in the best league in the world, that can only help.”
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP OFFERS – THE BEST DEALS FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
The St James’ Park star added: “I really don’t know how close I am to selection.
“Earlier this season there was talk of a call-up, but I came back from injury just two weeks before the start of the World Cup, which wasn’t good enough to get into the squad.
“I think I’m good enough to play with friends in the national team.
“I can help them and they can help me become a better player.”
Saint-Maximin could yet come to terms with the disappointment that his country lost to Argentina on penalties in the Doha final six days ago.
But Toon head coach Eddie Howe knows he’ll need the forward at his fascinating best if the high-flying Magpies are to maintain their place in the top four.
They travel to Leicester on Boxing Day and sit third in the table, although Saint-Maximin has been limited to just seven league games so far – with his last start in August.
It’s not like I’m in a small club. We’re third in the best league in the world, that can only help.
Allan Saint Maximin
It’s a scary prospect for Newcastle’s rivals if he’s fit and in form for the remainder of the season, especially with a possible France squad dominating his thoughts.
But regaining his place in the Newcastle squad and helping Howe’s side qualify for Europe are his more immediate goals.
He said: “Right now I just want Newcastle to do well.
“That’s my focus and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Leicester are going to be tough because they’ve bounced back from a bad start and they have excellent players.
“And like us, they won the cup midweek and will be confident. Playing in European football next season is a big challenge but I’m sure we can do it.
“The way the club is now, I believe we can achieve great things.”
Greatness with Newcastle will also help Saint-Maximin fulfill his French dream.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6982176/allan-saint-maximin-newcastle-world-cup/ Allan Saint-Maximin wants Newcastle fired to Europe while the French magician targets the dream spot for the 2026 World Cup