|17||FIFA Ranking position|
How did they qualify?
Drawn into a group that contained not only world and European champions Spain but just five teams overall, France had precious little margin for error when their campaign kicked off. In the end, they made just one slip, losing at home to La Roja¬, but it was a defeat that cost them first place in the section. Didier Deschamps’ side rarely sparkled during the group phase except for a fine performance on Spanish soil, where their efforts were finally rewarded with a last-gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw. Ultimately they were destined for the play-offs, as they had been ahead of South Africa 2010, and their chances of reaching Brazil took a battering in Kiev, where Ukraine’s superior desire and team spirit earned them a 2-0 advantage at the halfway stage in the tie. That left Les Bleus requiring a display of perfection in the second leg, but, with the Stade de France crowd in feverish mood, the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ winners turned things around with a 3-0 win that could prove a turning point for a side containing a number of exciting fresh talents. Mamadou Sakho, Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba are the standard-bearers of the new generation, while the gifted youngsters who led France to FIFA U-20 World Cup glory in 2013 stand waiting in the wings.
FIFA World Cup history
France have always commanded respect on the global stage thanks to various legendary players and impressive performances dating back to 1930, but they made the leap to a whole new level in 1998. Whereas Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Co experienced agony at the semi-final stage in 1982 and 1986, the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Laurent Blanc and Didier Deschamps finally took Les Bleus all the way, lifting the Trophy on home soil. That was followed by a surprise group-stage exit four years later, but they came close to adding a second star to their shirts in 2006, only losing out on penalties to Italy in the Final. Without ‘Zizou’ in their ranks, France then made a forgettable tilt at South Africa 2010, disappointing their supporters both on and off the pitch.
The current crop
The French production line continues to turn out some of the most sought-after talents in the world game, but following in the footsteps of the 1998 world champions and 2006 runners-up has proved no easy task. Typically cited as among the favourites ahead of any major tournament, Les Bleus failed to win a single game at either UEFA EURO 2008 or the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and took a laborious route through to the quarter-finals at EURO 2012. The present generation will undoubtedly be anxious to draw a line under that recent tournament form when they touch down in Brazil.
The key players
France boast solidity and strength in depth at the back, with a top-drawer goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris and a rearguard bolstered by the European experience of Patrice Evra, Laurent Koscielny and Raphael Varane. In the midfield, Paul Pogba can produce moments of magic. Further forward Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud both possess a keen eye for goal.
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup France 1998 (Winners), Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Los Angeles 1984 (Winners), FIFA Confederations Cup Korea/Japan 2001, France 2003 (Winners), FIFA U-17 World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2001 (Winners), and FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005 (Winners)
Former stars: Just Fontaine, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane
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