France World Cup profile
FootieLive’s France World Cup profile assesses Les Bleus who are serious tournament contenders in Russia.
French football has a hugely exciting crop of players at the moment, so their national team are well-regarded.
These perennial qualifiers for the World Cup are strong in every department.
Our France World Cup profile takes an in-depth look at Les Bleus…
How did they qualify?
The French finished top of UEFA qualifying Group A which also contained the Netherlands and Sweden.
That pool didn’t prove as difficult on paper as in reality because the Swedes no longer have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dutch football is in something of a slump.
Les Bleus won their group by four points suffering a sole defeat.
World Cup record
France lifted the World Cup on home soil in 1998 and have either done well or imploded at the finals since.
A repeat of group stage exits in 2002 when defending champions and 2010 when Les Bleus players revolted against then-manager Raymond Domenech don’t bear thinking about.
The Russia finals will be the 15th time the French have graced the World Cup proper.
Besides their sole success, they also finished runners-up at the last tournament held in Europe in Germany in 2006.
Les Bleus are also two-time European champions, winning on home turf in 1984 and again in 2000 when the Euros were held in the neighbouring Netherlands and Belgium.
FIFA World Ranking: 7
It’s no surprise to find the French among the top 10 footballing countries.
At the time the World Cup finals draw was made, they were seventh and that meant they were last of the top seeds.
That is 20 places higher than their official FIFA rating following their 2010 World Cup slump.
Manager: Didier Deschamps
Former World Cup and Euro 2000 winning captain Didier Deschamps did it all as a player, so can he lift the trophy again as coach 20 years om?
Les Bleus’ ex-midfield marshal wasn’t particularly glamorous on the field, but did his work in the engine room well.
Anchorman successor Claude Makelele overshadowed Deschamps somewhat, but wasn’t part of glorious 1998-2000 vintage.
At club level, Deschamps won league titles in France and Italy, plus the Champions League with both Marselle and Juventus and the FA Cup with Chelsea.
As a coach, he guided Monaco (2001-05) to the Champions League final in 2004 – losing to a certain Jose Mourinho and Porto.
Deschamps also took Juve back into Serie A (2006/07) after their relegation due to a match-fixing scandal and lifted four major trophies with Marseille (2009-12) before taking the national job.
France have qualified for successive World Cups under him, reaching the quarter-finals at Brazil 2014 and were runners-up to Portugal as hosts of Euro 2016.
Key players: Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba
It’s impossible to choose just one key man for Les Bleus.
Their star-studded roster of players means even whittling it down to two is doing them a disservice.
However, Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann is one of the few in attack seemingly guaranteed of a place.
He started every game in qualifying, scoring four and making as many goals for his France teammates with Paddy Power a top-price 20/1 about Griezmann being leading marksman at the World Cup finals.
When fit, you can say the same of Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
As Les Bleus’ only true all-rounder in the engine room he is one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Pogba netted twice en route to Russia, including a decisive strike early in the campaign away to the Dutch.
Rising stars: Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe
Again, forgive us if we’re stating the obvious, but two of the most expensive players in history are French and both 20 or younger.
Barcelona’s big money buy and Neymar replacement Ousmane Dembele is yet to get firing at the Nou Camp.
A thigh problem suffered earlier in the season is the cause of that, but he combined with fellow rising star Kylian Mbappe to sink England in a prestige friendly in June.
Mbappe is on loan at PSG from Ligue 1 rivals Monaco ahead of a mandatory massive permanent transfer at the end of the season.
While his return in Paris isn’t quite as impressive as when in the Principality, the move comes early in his career as he’s still only 18.
Dembele and Mbappe also boast French colonial heritage as they are of Mauritanian and Cameroonian descent respectively.
Teenage sensation Mbappe is an 8/1 chance with BetVictor to be France’s top scorer at the tournament.
Deschamps has essentially alternated between two systems during qualification: 4-4-2 and 4-3-3.
The latter set-up easily becomes 4-2-3-1 when Les Bleus don’t have the ball.
How they line-up rather depends on the opposition, though.
Such tactical pragmatism is nothing new, however, but captain Hugo Lloris is the undisputed number one.
Deschamps’ centre back pairing is two from three of Laurent Koscielny, Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti.
Monaco’s Djibril Sidibe looks to have have right back nailed down, but France started four different defenders down the other flank.
Blaise Matuidi remains a regular partner for Pogba in midfield, while the likes of N’Golo Kante and Bayern Munich record summer buy Corentin Tolisso competing for places.
French attacking options abound and Deschamps cannot fit all of Kingsley Coman, Dembele, Nabil Fekir of Lyon, Kevin Gameiro, Griezmann, Arsenal pair Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Lemar, Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, Mbappe and Marseille pair Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin in his World Cup squad.
Group and betting
It’s Group C for Les Bleus in Russia, which pits them again Australia, then Peru and finally Denmark.
That is probably the best order for Deschamps with the easiest game on paper first and toughest last.
Bookmakers certainly fancy France to top this pool.
As short as 1/12 in some places, BetVictor go 1/4 they win the group.
With their strength-in-depth, it’s no surprise Paddy Power make Les Bleus best-price 6/1 tournament fancies.
That puts them among the favourites for the World Cup.
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