In 1958, the French finished third with great players like Just Fontaine, who set the record of goals scored in a final phase of the World Cup with 13 strikes. France also finished third in 1986 and fourth in 1982. Les Bleus won the World Cup on home soil against Brazil in 1998 (3-0) and finished second in 2006. Despite a drop in standards in 2002 and 2006, France still came agonisingly close to grasping a second global title in the latter tournament, only losing out on penalties to Italy in the finals. The Zidane chapter came to a close that night in Berlin, but Les Bleus can still call upon some of the biggest names in world football, with a seemingly endless production line of young talents, having unearthed the likes of Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and Yoann Gourcuff in recent seasons.
The French public have come to regard Raymond Domenech as a paradox onto himself since he took charge in 2004. Praised for his communication skills when he first arrived, his perceived weaknesses in that domain were leapt upon after France failed to shine at UEFA EURO 2008. Domenech has yet to lift silverware with Les Bleus, but he is now the country’s longest serving national coach and can point to a FIFA World Cup Final appearance as the highlight so far of a career that has had a steady upwards trajectory. Raymond Domenech might be the most hated person in the world of football. He has made a lot of errors in the past, fewer now than previously, though his management style is very unpredictable. There is not too much debate in France about the players he chooses, but how he manages the team is a question that nobody can answer. It will be his last competition in charge of the side as Laurent Blanc is being lined up as the future boss.
Not the greatest way to qualify, I must admit. Thierry Henry’s handball has been broadcast all over the world and a lot of people think that France should not be in South Africa. France has always struggled to qualify to these big events but is here for the fourth time in a row, a record for the country. They made a bad start to their campaign by losing to Austria and Les Bleus were unlucky in Romania where they only managed a draw and salvaged a point against Serbia, where France played with ten men after Hugo Lloris was sent off in the eighth minute. Against Ireland in the play-offs, France had the opportunities to score two goals at Croke Park but was in danger of being eliminated in Paris.
France has a great team…on paper. Their players play their trade for the biggest clubs in the world (Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal, Lyon, and Barcelona), so the squad has potential to win the World Cup. France has a great attacking team with Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribery, Thierry Henry and Yoann Gourcuff. However, Les Bleus have not found a good balance in central defense. William Gallas is good but Eric Abidal is not a central defender. Furthermore, the relationship of the players on the pitch is not too good.
France is there to win the World Cup. They have the players to do it, but maybe not the coach. It’s sure that France is a team that many will want to avoid, and Les Bleus will fear no one. The key will be Ribery. Although they may look great on paper, I think this may be a disappointing World cup for France; I see them making it as far as the quarter finals.
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