France: Team Preview 2014 FIFA World Cup
Les Bleus are always expected to perform well at the world cup as they are considered to be one of the giants of world football. Since winning the World Cup in 1998 at their own den, France have always been one of the favourites.
But in the last decade, the French have not done well in the international arena, the 2006 World Cup being the only exception. Since winning Euro 2000, Les Bleus brigade haven’t performed upto the mark. Be it the Euros or the World Cup.
The last World cup witnessed a series of controversies inside the team. The problems within the squad had an adverse effect on the team’s performance. They were eliminated in the group stage and after the World Cup, coach Raymond Domenech resigned and Laurent Blanc had taken the responsibility of managing the squad. But nothing changed as France performed bizzarely in Euro 2012.
A lot is expected from the World winning captain Didier Deschamps, and the nation expects him to deliver a satisfactory performance at this year’s World Cup.
Road to World Cup
France were placed in the Group I of UEFA qualifying zone along with defending champions Spain, Finland, Georgia and Belarus. They began their journey way back in 2012. Les Bleus won most of their matches convincingly against the other weaker opponents. Their only threat was against the mighty Spain, against whom they drew one match and lost one. France only faltered in their away tie against Georgia when it ended in a goalless stalemate.
France ended the group stage in second position just 2 points behind Spain and as a result were forced to play play-offs in order to qualify. They faced Ukraine in the play-off game. Ukraine surprisingly drubbed the 1998 champions 2-0 and shocked the world. This meant Les Bleus needed a miracle to qualify to the World Cup final rounds. The French footballers came back strongly from a 0-2 deficit to pull off a magnificent 3-0 win at their home ground to qualify with a better aggregate.
French coach Didier Deschamp announced the 23-man squad on May 14. The announcement ignited few controversies relating to certain surprising exclusions – Samir Nasri being the most prominent. Nobody had expected that the Manchester City midfielder would not be considered for World Cup even after he had a brilliant season with the English Premier League champions.
Another prominent name who was not included was Manchester City left-back Gael Clichy, who had been an integral part of the French national team.
But overall, the France squad look impressive. They have the likes Franc Ribery, Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud and Yohan Cabaye which showcase the experience of the squad. Paul Pogba, Sissoko, Loic Remy on the other hand brings in the energy of youth into the squad.
Goalkeepers: Mickaël Landreau, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda.
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy, Lucas Digne, Patrice Evra, Laurent Koscielny, Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna, Mamadou Sakho, Raphaël Varane.
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Clément Grenier, Blaise Matuidi, Rio Mavuba, Paul Pogba, Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Valbuena.
Forwards: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Loïc Rémy, Franck Ribéry.
Didier Deschamps is the most successful captain In French football history. He lead the French team to 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euro Cup glory. Deschamp played for several clubs which included, Marseille, Juventus, Chelsea, etc. As a manager he had been in charge of AS Monaco, Juventus and Marseille. Deschamps took over the managerial role of the national team just after the Euro 2012, after the then manager, Laurent Blanc stepped down.
Formation and Tactics
Didier Deschamps is known to deploy two strikers up front in his entire coaching career. But the French coach might follow the typical European tactics and field the team with just one striker. Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid man is likely to start, with Giroud and Remy in the bench. Benzema had been in sublime form throughout the season and scored 26 goals in a Real Madrid shirt this season. He is expected to perform similarly at the tournament for France.
Deschamps wil most likely opt for this formation which is the most common and versatile formation in the world currently. This formation helps protecting the defence and also helps the attack upfront. The two defensive midfielders, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi would play a pivotal role in the team. With Pogba’s energy in the midfield, France would surely benefit from the formation. A lot is expected from the Juventus midfielder who would also be responsible for the crucial passes to the attackers upfront. Pogba’s ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder adds efficiency to the Les Bleus squad. He has defensive qualities, attacking flairs and scoring abilities.
Franc Ribery, Mathieu Valbuena and Yohan Cabaye would act as support system to Karim Benzema. Ribery, who finished third in this year’s Ballon d’Or would be the most important player in France’s attacking third.
Best Starting XI
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris
Defenders: Bacari Sagna, Raphael Varane, Laurent Koscielnt, Patrice Evra
Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena, Franc Ribery, Yohan Cabaye
Striker: Karim Benzema
Ideal formation: 4-2-3-1
History at the World Cup
|1950||Qualified, but withdrew|
|1962||Did not qualify|
|1970||Did not qualify|
|1974||Did not qualify|
|1990||Did not qualify|
|1994||Did not qualify|
Best Performance in World Cup
France is one of those 13 European nations who participated in the inaugural World Cup in 1930. They have appeared in 13 World Cups so far. Their best performance in the World Cup till date was in the year 1998, in which they emerged Champions. The second best performance was in Germany, 2006, where the Les Bleus, led by Zinedine Zidane finished second. Other notable performances of France were in 1958 and 1986 World Cups, in which they finished third. They finished fourth in 1982.
If we dig into the World Cup history, we will find that the Les Bleus have been very inconsistent. After winning the cup in 1998, they bowed out from the group stage in the 2002 World Cup. Again after a brilliant performance in 2006, they were knocked out from the group stage in 2010.
France have failed to qualify in five occassions, 1962, 1970, 1974, 1990 and 1994. In 1950, even after qualifying France withdrew at the last moment citing political issues.
Prediction – How far can they go?
France have been placed in a comparatively easy group along with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. In a group which mostly consists of minnows of world football, France are expected to qualify for the knock-out stages with ease.
With a decent squad Les Bleus are expected to reach at least the quarter-final depending upon the draw they get. If the likes of Ribery, Pogba, Valbuena and Benzema performs according to their potential they might prove the experts wrong and show some miracle.
Prediction: Quarter finals
To see other Team Previews : 2014 FIFA World Cup Team Previews