France: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
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 5-team group, with reigning world champions Spain – who inflicted their only loss, a 0-1 defeat at home.
Dechamps’ 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 progress to Brazil.
After an atrocious World Cup last time round – a campaign that contained the bonkers and the downright unheard of – France sacked head coach Reymond Domenech. Laurent Blanc was at the helm for a couple of years before being replaced by Didier Deschamps. Since his appointment, he has fashioned a fluid 4-3-3 formation, with the primary goal being a utilisation of France’s athletic, quick, strong 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 the major leagues of Europe.
For them to succeed, they will need to eradicate their constant lapses in concentration, which have impeded them in big games and maintain a harmonious team spirit in what is an often fractious group of players. Due to Deschamps’ inexperience at this level, and France’s recent record in major competitions, don’t expect to hear “Allez Les Bleus” ringing out anywhere past the quarterfinal stages.
Key Player – Franck Ribery
A big contender for this years 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.