WORLD CUP FORECAST: Group E – Can France shake off their recent woes and return to the top?

You never know what you are going to get with France such is their penchant for drama.
as_ribery_fra

You never know what you are going to get with France such is their penchant for drama.

Les Bleus seem to mix their form considerably at World Cups as is evidenced by their past four entries into the competition.

After failing to qualify for the world tournament in both 1990 and 1994, the French saluted on home soil in 1998 before crashing spectacularly in Asia in 2002 when they did not score a goal in a group consisting of Denmark, Senegal and Uruguay.

It was a stunning fall from grace in the wake of their Euro2000 triumph and showed just how polarizing the efforts of the France national team can be.

Furthermore, Raymond Domenech guided the team to the final of the 2006 World Cup in Germany where they lost to Italy on penalties before faltering miserably in South Africa in 2010 when again experiencing elimination at the group stage.

Fast forward four years and it appears as though Didier Deschamps has been able to rid the side of any trouble, in-fighting and negativity by instilling the hard-nosed and disciplined approach he portrayed during his playing career which landed him almost every trophy in world football.

Second place to Spain in qualifying is no embarrassment but despite those exertions, they were forced into a play-off where they had to tackle Ukraine in a two-legged battle.

It appeared as though the French would again be toppled when it mattered when they lost 2-0 in Kiev in November but an extraordinary 3-0 win in Paris set Les Tricolores on their way to another World Cup.

Can that fighting triumph be the catalyst for another tilt at world silverware or is it another case of smoke and mirrors for French football?

France

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Fixtures: Honduras - June 15 (Porto Alegre), Switzerland - June 20 (Salvador), Ecuador - June 25 (Rio de Janeiro)

Past outings against group opponents: France have never met Honduras at senior international level.

Les Bleus have faced off with neighbours Switzerland 36 times throughout their history, winning 15 times, drawing nine times and losing on 12 occasions. The most recent encounter was at the ’06 WC when the Swiss held the French to a 0-0 draw in Germany.

France have played Ecuador just once which resulted in a 2-0 friendly win in Grenoble in 2008.

Key players: Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

World Cup utopia: Getting past the quarter-finals would restore a massive amount of pride for French football. Round of 16 would be a pass.

Doomsday scenario: Recreating the stunning failure of South Korea/Japan 2002.

Qualified by virtue of: UEFA play-off win over Ukraine (3-2 on aggregate).

Best result at a World Cup: WON (1998)

tribal’s forecast:

There’s no doubting the potential of the French players but it is their mental strength which has to be questioned.

It looks as though Deschamps has ironed out some of those psychological kinks and his decision to leave some big names out of his preliminary squad suggests that he has a plan to fortify the cerebral weakness within.

Ribery is a bona fide star of the world game and will be relied upon to create forward forays at will. His wizardry in the front half will be sure to frighten the Honduran, Swiss and Ecuadorian defences and it will be his influence that is likely to inspire the rest of the team.

The three main strikers have all had solid seasons at club level with Benzema scoring 24 times for Real Madrid, Olivier Giroud tallying on 22 occasions for Arsenal and Loic Remy finding the back of the net 14 times for a struggling Newcastle United.

Premier League defenders Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal) and Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool) are expected to take the centre-back roles while Bacary Sagna (Arsenal) and Patrice Evra (Manchester United) could make up an all-England based back four in front of captain Hugo Lloris (Tottenham).

There are plenty of recognizable names in the French squad with the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Valbuena and Blaise Matuidi expected to feature prominently but it could be the unknown quantity of Juventus young gun Paul Pogba which gets the world talking.

The boy has talent in spades and the World Cup is just the stage for him to show off his wares and become a revered name in France’s football folklore.

They have been blessed with a very kind group, which you would expect them to navigate successfully, before the knockout phase commences and it is at this stage where absolutely anything can happen at a World Cup.

Prediction: Quarter-finals.

 
For breaking stories and all the great banter like us on Facebook: facebook.com/tribalfootball

Have your say