World Cup Preview – France
Best WC Performance: Winners – 1998
Current World Ranking: 7
The French national team doesn’t have as much of a decorated past as you might expect. Early in the competition’s history, they failed to get past the quarter finals. It wasn’t until Sweden 1958 that they finished an impressive 3rd. However, the next 20 years did not follow suit as they failed to surpass the group stage, not even qualifying for three of the tournaments during this time.
The eighties were a brighter time as they finished in the top four at both tournaments and when they hosted the tournament in 98 (their first return to a world cup since the eighties), France were crowned winners on their own turf, a long-awaited achievement for the French team. Barring the 2006 final; regrettably remembered for Zidane’s infamous head-butt, where France finished runners-up, recent World Cup performance has been below par. However, France should never be written off so easily.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain)
Defenders: Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Adil Rami (Marseille), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Nabil Fekir (Lyon), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)
- Vs Australia 11:00, 16/06/18 Kazan Arena, Kazan
- Vs Peru 16:00, 21/06/18 Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg
- Vs Denmark 15:00, 26/06/18 Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Manager – Didier Deschamps
Didier Deschamps is a well renowned manager and arguably the best the France national team has seen in recent years. Always bringing the best out of his players as shown by his club record, Deschamps is a very solid manager to have going into Russia 2018. Losing out in the quarters to eventual winners Germany at Brazil 2014 was his first major tournament in charge and after narrowly missing out on the European title, French ambitions will be sky high.
Qualification for Russia 2018 was never really a struggle for France. Only losing once to group runners-up Sweden didn’t have a great impact on their qualification, and despite a couple of somewhat surprising draws, France finished top of their group demonstrating why they’ll be tough competitors come June.
Captain – Hugo Lloris
Hugo Lloris wears the armband for Les Bleus and is a strong choice at that. The Spurs shot-stopper has been a regular in the national team for many years, and will certainly be the No. 1 in Russia. Hoping to lead his team to national glory, Hugo deservedly earns the right as captain. The calibre of such a keeper gives the rest of the team a huge confidence boost and makes him an obvious choice to lead the team out.
Danger man – Antoine Griezmann
It comes as no shock that France’s danger man is the sublime Antoine Griezmann. Consistently performing to an outstanding level for Atletico Madrid, Griezmann is a shoo-in for the national side. He’s proven he can do it on the national stage too. After a shaky start to Euro 2016 he proved just how incredible he can be, finishing Euro 2016 not only as top goal scorer but also as the tournament’s best player. His goal scoring record at the tournament was the second highest in the tournaments history, including a brace against World champions Germany in the semi-finals.
Young player – Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappé is an incredible talent and he’s only 19 years of age. After starring for Monaco in their title winning season (2016/17), Kylian sealed a loan deal to French giants PSG. After winning the Euro U19 tournament back in 2016, Mbappé made his debut during qualification and has not looked back since. Hoping to fire France to glory alongside the likes of Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, Mbappé will be one to watch.
Premier League Players
France’s squad has a few key players that reside in the Premier League, including captain Hugo Lloris and defender Benjamin Mendy. Midfield powerhouse duo N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba both hold key central midfield roles at Chelsea and Manchester United respectively while in attack Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud will be battling it out to be the Premier League’s French attacking force.
Elsewhere, the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Anthony Martial and Alexandre Lacazette are amongst the best Premier league players overlooked for selection, while former Blackburn midfielder Steven Nzonzi made the cut.
Placed in a somewhat ‘easy’ group, France should finish as leaders of Group C. However, Group D is comparatively a lot more difficult, meaning that if France progress, whoever they face will be tough to beat. Despite this, following an outstanding performance on the last international stage, France will be many a fan’s favourite to win the whole tournament and could quite possibly do so.
Written by Sam Brazier.