With the 2014 FIFA World Cup less than 60 days away, we take a look at one of the former champions and what they can bring to the table.
Having won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, it has been a wretched few campaigns for the last few years for Les Blues, bar the 2006 World Cup. Even that year, it was more the players who took the team to the final, with Zidane having to come out of retirement to help France to even qualify for the tournament. But this time round, they have a manager who can help turn things around when the chips are down, as they showed against Ukraine in the qualifying play-off.
While it is far too early for a formal announcement of the team that is likely to go to the World Cup, we can certainly predict who could make the cut based on the qualification campaign. Here’s a possible lineup that could make the trip to Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Mickael Landreau. Defenders: Patrice Evra, Lucas Digne, Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Debuchy, Laurent Koscielny, Raphael Varane, Mamadou Sakho, Eliaquim Mangala. Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi, Maxime Gonalons, Moussa Sissoko, Clement Grenier, Mathieu Valbuena. Forwards: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Franck Ribery, Loic Remy.
Samir Nasri may likely make the squad too, considering his impressive season for Manchester City. However, if Deschamps feels his off-field attitude is not up to scratch, which has been a problem in the past, Nasri could miss out from the squad.
Didier Deschamps needs no introduction. Having won the 1998 World Cup and the Euro 2000 as a player, he knows what it takes to be a champion. Even before that, he was the youngest Marseille captain when his team became the only French team to win the UEFA Champions League, in 1993. He also won the Champions League with Juventus, while finishing runner up on 3 different occasions, twice with the Old Lady and once with Valencia. As a manager, he’s had quite a successful reign, taking Monaco to the Champions League finals as well as bringing success to Marseille. He replaced Laurent Blanc as the manager of the French National team, and managed a second place finish in the group, behind Spain. Having fallen behind 2 goals in the first leg against Ukraine, he managed to overturn the deficit with a 3 goal victory in the second leg.
1. Laurent Koscielny
After a fantastic season for club side Arsenal, Koscielny would be one of the first names in the team sheet for Deschamps. He has had an excellent understanding with his German partner Per Mertesacker and France fans would be hoping that it would be the same with whoever the manager decides to partner him with.
2. Paul Pogba
This World Cup is essentially Paul Pogba’s stage to show the world what he can do. He’s been a mainstay in the Juventus side, making appearances in 41 games so far. He was part of the U-20 side that won the World Cup for France. Even though he is young, people are already talking about how important he is for the future of France football.
3. Franck Ribery
The 2014 World Cup will most probably be Franck Ribery’s last chance to make an impact on the world stage, with his club form not always transforming to the national setup. But he is the most talented player in the French side, and would be very important to whatever strategy Deschamps has lined up for France to win the World Cup.
Didier Deschamps’s preferred formation is a 4-2-1-3, but could well end up going for the 4-3-3, with Yohan Cabaye partnering Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi in the midfield. Olivier Giroud could play in the centre with Karim Benzema on the right and Franck Ribery on the left.
Strengths and Weaknesses
France has always been blessed with skilled players, but like the Spain of the past, suffer from individual problems. On paper, France has as good a squad as any to win the World Cup, but as has been evident in the past, off-field problems kill their chances of making an impact on the biggest stage of them all. So, if they can keep their heads on the pitch and be disciplined off it, this French side will be very difficult to beat.
After the tough qualification group, France have been handed a relatively easy group in the World Cup, with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras as their opponents in Group E. Unless they disintegrate badly, France should easily top the group. But beyond that, anything can happen. However, one would expect they would make it till the Quarterfinals, after which they might lose out to some of the heavyweights.