An easy group could see the talented French through to the knockout rounds, but losing injured star winger Franck Ribery for the tournament may spell doom for their chances of making much noise in Brazil.
With the loss of Franck Ribery looming large over the French, Karim Benzema's talent is needed now more than ever. The powerful Real Madrid striker has four goals in his last six appearances for Les Bleus, including a crucial equalizer against Ukraine in their dramatic qualification playoff.
- World Cup Group: E
- Nickname: Les Bleus
- Manager: Didier Deschamps
- Captain: Hugo Lloris
- FIFA World Ranking: 17
- Best World Cup Result: Champions, 1998
- Qualification Method: 2nd in UEFA Group I, defeated Ukraine in playoff
Road to Rio
Always possessing a flair for the dramatic – for better or worse – France qualified for Brazil by the skin of its teeth. An unlucky qualifying draw saw Les Bleus drawn in a group with the defending World Cup champions Spain, who unsurprisingly topped the table, forcing France into a playoff against Ukraine for a qualification spot.
Ukraine looked poised to advance with a 2-0 victory at home over a disorganized French side, but Les Bleus stormed back in Paris, scoring two goals in the first half before Mamadou Sakho capped the comeback in the 72nd minute, booking France’s ticket to Rio.
How they Fared in 2010
Remember that “flair for the dramatic” thing we talked about? France’s South African journey is more remembered for what happened on the field than off. Manager Raymond Domenech sent striker Nicolas Anelka home midway through the tournament after the two got into a heated argument, causing the remaining players to revolt and boycott training before Les Bleus’ final group match.
The story captured international media attention, and top members of the French soccer federation and government got involved. Lambasted in the press as an embarrassment to the country, Les Bleus bowed meekly to South Africa 2-1 and crashed out of the tournament.
- Sunday June 15 – France vs. Honduras, 3 p.m. ET
- Friday June 20 – Switzerland vs. France, 3 p.m. ET
- Wednesday June 25 – Ecuador vs. France, 4 p.m. ET
Even with the loss of Ribery, Les Bleus should still easily get out of Group E. Emphasis on “should.” At full strength France is still an unpredictable side, so who knows what to expect from Les Bleus now that their star has been ruled out of the tournament.