France: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Stephane Ruffier (Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia).
Defenders: Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Lucas Digne (Paris St-Germain) Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna (both Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi (both Paris St-Germain), Clement Grenier (Lyon), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Loic Remy (Newastle, on loan from QPR), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich).
Best Finish: Winner (1998)
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Captain: Hugo Lloris
France’s topsy-turvy World Cup story continues in 2014. But only just.
They were placed in the only five-team group in qualifying with reigning world champions Spain—who inflicted their only loss, a 0-1 defeat at home.
Deschamps’ team were drawn against Ukraine in a European play-off, where their performance oscillated from the farcical to the exceptional. After losing 2-0 in Kiev, France needed a more than stellar performance in front of their home crowd. After going 1-0 up, the French were wrongly awarded a second goal, with Karim Benzema scoring from an offside position. Eventually Les Bleus won the game 3-0 to book their in Brazil.
After an atrocious World Cup last time round—a campaign that contained the bonkers and the downright unheard of—France sacked head coach Raymond Domenech. Since Deschamps’ appointment, he has fashioned a fluid 4-3-3 formation, with the primary goal being a utilisation of France’s athletic players.
France’s deep pool of talent is extremely enviable for the majority of the nations partaking in Brazil. They have exceptional cover in every position, with every player active in successful teams in the upper reaches of major European leagues.
For them to succeed, they will need to eradicate their constant lapses in concentration, which have impeded them in big games. Not to mention maintain a harmonious team spirit in what is an often fractious group of players.
They struck gold with their group draw, and will feel confident of escaping from a group that includes Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. If they click into gear then a deep run is possible.
Key Player – Franck Ribery
A big contender for last year’s Ballon D’Or award, Ribey has been incredibly consistent for club and country in the past 12 months.
Combining pace, energy and close control, he patent is gliding past opponents with ease and regularly producing an end product. Despite being predominately right footed, he plays on the left-side of the front three.
It gives him license to float between the lines and wreak havoc in the channels. Like his teammate Arjen Robben, we have seen a vast improvement in his work-rate and these days he is much more prone to putting a defensive shift in for his team.
Currently the most capped player in the French squad, the onus is often on him to lift his side and grab the game by the scruff of the neck. In a France camp going through something of a transitional period, Deschamps will need his leadership skills to help facilitate the full potential of this wholly unpredictable outfit.