WORLD CUP HISTORY: France will be enjoying World Cup football for the 13th time. Deep runs are a regular occurrence, with the Zinedine Zidane show culminating those runs in 1998 as he led his side to their first World Cup title. France could have been the defending champions heading into South Africa, but lost out to Italy on penalties in that dramatic final match in 2006.
QUALIFICATION: It was a long and torturous qualifying campaign for Les Blues. Raymond Domenech was not a popular figure, dousing fires both in the locker room and with the media. After finishing runners up to Serbia in their qualifying group, France would become unpopular across the world. In the playoff against a plucky Irish side, Thierry Henry’s blatant handball aided in the deciding goal in extra-time. France won, Ireland lost, and the world has since focused its vitriol on the French side and Henry.
KEY PLAYER: Franck Ribery. Despite its recent struggles, France is a team deep in talent. Though it’s impossible to replace Zidane, in Ribery the team has a player that can electrify like few others can. The winger is truly world-class and is respected as such. Ribery has seen his face on both the front and back pages in the build-up to the World Cup, having been embroiled in a sex scandal. But focusing on the player, he will mystify opposing defences and has the ability to win games by himself.
EXPECTATIONS: The Domenech era is almost at an end, as Laurent Blanc is set to take over at the conclusion of the World Cup. That can be seen as a negative, and raises the question if the players will respond to a coach on his way out. Group A sees France compete with three tricky opponents in Mexico, South Africa and Uruguay. If France bows out early, few will be surprised. On the other hand, the same could be said if France makes another run to the final.