Manager: Former French International, Didier Deschamps, will be leading the French at this year’s World Cup. Capped 103 times for the national team, Deschamps had a successful career at the likes of Chelsea, Marseille and Juventus. After retiring in 2001, Deschamps was appointed head coach of Monaco, leading to a Cup victory in 2003. Moving on from Juventus and Marseille, the latter where he won 5 different cups and the league in 2010, Deschamps was appointed national coach after the 2012 Euro. He has since had his contract extended as a result of positive performance.
Star Player: It’s hard to look past the undoubted talent of Karim Benzema. Still only 26 years old, the Real Madrid front man has been one of the best strikers in the world for the last few years. A combination of strength, presence and deadly finishing, Benzema will look to be a driving force behind France’s World Cup 2014 campaign. His previous season at Real Madrid was by far his best, being ever present in the Spanish’s Copa del Ray and Champions League triumphs. Whilst having played 235 games for Real Madrid since 2009, and racking up an impressive 111 goals and 61 assists, his international form has been erratic and disappointing. Having been snubbed by former coach Raymond Domenech for the 2010 World Cup, and a less than inspiring Euro campaign, Benzema is desperate to translate his domestic form into some solid performances for his country. Having already lost his spot once to Olivier Giroud, expect Benzema to thrive on the pressure in Brazil and prove his critics wrong.
Who to look out for: France arrives in Brazil with a rejuvenated team, keen to put behind the embarrassment and turmoil of the 2010 World Cup. Similar to a few other World Cup teams, France is relying on youthful exuberance for success. And for young energy, look no further than Paul Pogba. ESPN ranked Pogba above the likes of Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, Germany’s Marco Reus, and Spanish anchor Sergio Busquets in their top 50 Players of the World Cup. After managing to dislodge Juventus mainstay Marchisio, Pogba, who is only 21 years old, Pogba has been at the heart of the Italian club. He was named the best player at the 2013 U20 World Cup, and was named the best Young Player in Europe for the season 2013-14. On the biggest stage of the world, Pogba will be a talent to watch.
Another youngster reaping accolades from all angles is 20 year old Raphael Varane who is currently plying his trade for European Champions, Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane personally recommended Madrid sign him, African legend Didier Drogba claimed Varane was one of the best defenders he has ever faced, and the famous Spanish tabloid Marca named him in Madrid’s Best Foreign XI, alongside Roberto Carlos, Zindane and Figo. A slim build, yet 6’3” tall, Varane represents a new class of defender, who whilst is rock-solid at the back, has an ability to spot a pass and is extremely technically gifted.
16 June vs Honduras (5am AET) – Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
21 June vs Switzerland (5am) – Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
26 June vs Ecuador (6am) – Maracana, Rio De Janeiro
Prediction: France should be quietly confident to finish in top place, let alone emerge from their group and make the Round of 16, after being placed in a slightly easier group. France had an impressive qualifying campaign, finishing just behind current champions Spain, and will look to bring that from into the World Cup. Switzerland and Ecuador can leave their mark, but France holds too much talent not finish at the top of their group. This will see a matchup with the second placed Group F, which looks similarly weak to France’s group. France, albeit shock results, should have no problems up until the Quarter Finals. A semi-final birth is a possibility, by France will need to be at the absolute top of their game. France to bow out in the Final 8.
FTSAUS Fact: Only 5 players from Raymond Domenech’s infamous France 2010 World Cup Squad made the cut for the 2014 World Cup. Those players were captain Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Patrice Evra, Franck Ribery and Mathieu Valbuena. Of the 18 new selections, six have 5 caps or less.
Previous World Cup Best Appearance: In 1998, after failing to qualify for the 1990 and 1994 World Cup, France were crowned champions of the world, winning a one-sided final 3-0 against Brazil at the Stade de France. Their inaugural World Cup win was thanks to a Zinedine Zidane masterclass, who’s two first half goals but Les Blues in control. The 3-0 win was also the heaviest defeat Brazil had suffered since the first ever World Cup in 1930.
Extra Time: Erratic is quite possibly the best way to describe France’s recent World Cup appearances. After failing to qualify for both the 1990 and 1994 World Cup’s in heartbreaking circumstances, France indeed won the 1998 World Cup in their own backyard, much to the sheer happiness of Les Blues fans. Only 4 years later in 2002, and winning the 2000 Euro in between, France failed to get out of the group. In 2006, France made the World Cup Final. In 2010, France failed once again to get out of the group stage. If you’re into your superstitions, and if France’s trend of World Cup Final, Group Stage, World Cup Final, Group Stage is anything to go by, are France halfway to lifting the trophy…? Most likely not.