Team Profile: France
- Coach: Raymond Domenech
- Goalkeepers: Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
- Defenders: Eric Abidal (Barcelona/Spain), Gael Clichy (Arsenal/England), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/England), William Gallas (Arsenal/England), Marc Planus (Bordeaux), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal/England), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla/Spain)
- Midfielders: Abou Diaby (Arsenal/England), Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Florent Malouda (Chelsea/England), Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
- Forwards: Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea/England), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos/Greece), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Sidney Govou (Lyon), Thierry Henry (Barcelona/Spain), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/Germany)
Style of play: France employs an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, making use of its speed and creativity down the wings to put pressure on the opposing defence. Forwards Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka typically drop back to pick up the ball and drift in from the flanks as they venture forward. Jeremy Toulalan sits in front of the back line, acting as a defensive shield, while Franck Ribery (along the wing) and Yoann Gourcuff (in the middle) orchestrate the attack. Gourcuff usually looks to feed low, diagonal passes to the Anelka and Henry, but he's not shy about shooting from distance, Even the fullbacks, Patric Evera and Bacary Sagna, are prone to join the attack, making bombing runs down the flanks.
- June 11 vs. Uruguay in Cape Town
- June 17 vs. Mexico in Polokwane
- June 22 vs. South Africa in Bloemfontein
Projected starting lineup (4-2-3-1): (GK) Hugo Lloris - (D) Bacary Sagna, Eric Abidal, William Gallas, Patrice Evra - (M) Jeremy Toulalan, Flourent Malouda - (M) Yoann Gourcuff, Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka - (F) Thierry Henry
- Overall depth: Coach Raymond Domenech isn't lacking for options as he has several world-class players available to him at almost every position.
- Relatively easy group: The kind was very kind to Les Bleus, ranked No. 10 in the world, as they were grouped together with South Africa (expected to bow out in the first round), perennial under-achiever Mexico and Uruguay, back at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
- Point to prove: After crashing out of Euro 2008 in the first round and qualifying for the World Cup thanks in large part to Thierry Henry's hand ball, France's status as a soccer superpower has come into serious question by the critics and media pundits. The French would love nothing more than to prove them all wrong.
- Centre of defence: Veteran William Gallas has been hobbled by a calf injury and likely won't be at 100 per cent fitness. Domenech has tried partnering Gallas with Julien Escude, Eric Abidal and Sebastien Squillaci, but he still hasn't hit on the right defensive duo to anchor the back line.
- The Domenech factor: The French coach is universally loathed among the French press and public due to his buffoonish behaviour and tactical shortcomings and because France stumbled through what should have been a straightforward qualifying campaign. He's made a series of questionable decisions in the past, several of his players don't like him, and every move he makes will be second-guessed and scrutinized
- The Ribery affair: Influential winger Franck Ribery has been the focus of a major scandal in France since April when it came out that he and Karim Benzema had paid to have sex with an underage prostitute. Ribery's extramarital affair has been splashed all over the French tabloids, which could prove to be too much of a distraction for Les Bleus to overcome.
Players to watch:
- Thierry Henry - He's a little older and may have lost some speed, but Henry is still a world-class striker and an elegant goal-scorer who strikes fear into the hearts of opposing defenders.
- Hugo Lloris - The Lyon goalkeeper's cat-like reflexes and excellent positioning make him tough to beat up close and from a distance. What's more, he commands a presence in the penalty box and does well when organizing his defenders.
- Franck Ribery - His quick feet and marksman-like ability to score goals at the perfect moment has made him one of the most dangerous players in the world today.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Coach Raymond Domenech cut six players from his 30-man provisional squad: goalkeeper Mickael Landreau, defenders Adil Rami and Rod Fanni, midfielders Hatem Ben Arfa and Yann M'Vila, and striker Jimmy Briand. Arsenal's William Gallas, a key defender for France, missed the last part of the English Premiership season with a calf injury, and questions remain about his fitness going into this tournament. Domenech caused quite a stir when he omitted forward Karim Benzema and midfielder Patrick Vieira off his squad. Benzema is one of the brightest young stars in French soccer, but he failed to make a lasting impression in his debut season with Real Madrid this past year. Vieira, a member of France's 1998 World Cup-winning side, moved from Inter Milan to Manchester City in January in a bid to regain his spot on the national team but failed to impress Domenech. Other notable absentees include winger Samir Nasri and defender Philippe Mexes. Midfielder Lassana Diarra was forced out due to a genetic red-blood cell disorder.
Prognosis: Second-round or quarter-finals. There's no denying that this is a French side that is in a state of flux, but they still have enough genuine quality to win Group A and advance to the second round - although it won't be easy, and they can expect a tough fight from Uruguay and Mexico. They may even sneak into the quarter-finals, but there are too many questions and problems hanging over Les Bleus to consider them as a genuine threat to win the tournament.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #10
- Qualification route: France finished in second place (21 points) in Europe Group 7 behind Serbia (22 points). France then defeated Ireland in a two-game playoff, winning 2-1 on aggregate.
- Key to qualification: Irish fans will tell you France cheated its way into the World Cup, and while this may sound harsh, Les Bleus did benefit by lady luck smiling down on them. Aside from the controversial Williams Gallas goal off Thierry Henry's controversial hand ball, France also eked out victories over Lithuania and Serbia.
- Crucial result: A 1-1 tie with Ireland (Nov. 18, 2009, in Saint-Denis) allowed France to win their two-game playoff series and clinch a World Cup berth.
- Qualifying record: 12 games played, 7 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss
- Goals for: 20
- Goals against: 10
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Andre-Pierre Gignac and Thierry Henry (4)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Sept. 6, 2008 - Austria 3, France 1
- Sept. 10, 2008 - France 2, Serbia 1
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Romania 2, France 2
- March 28, 2009 - Lithuania 0, France 1
- April 1, 2009 - France 1, Lithuania 0
- Aug. 12, 2009 - Faroe Islands 0, France 1
- Sept. 5, 2009 - France 1, Romania 1
- Sept. 9, 2009 - Serbia 1, France 1
- Oct. 10, 2009 - France 5, Faroe Islands 0
- Oct. 14, 2009 - France 3, Austria 1
- Nov. 14, 2009 - Ireland 0, France 1
- Nov. 18, 2009 - France 1, Ireland 1
- Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 12
- All-time record: 51 games played, 25 wins, 10 draws, 16 losses
- Goals for: 95
- Goals against: 64
- Biggest victory: 7-2 vs. Paraguay in 1958
- Biggest defeat: 5-2 vs. Brazil in 1958
- Overall top scorer: Just Fontaine (13 goals)
- Most appearances: Fabien Barthez (17 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: 1938, 1998
World Cup track record
- 1930 - First Round
- 1934 - First Round
- 1938 - Quarter-finals
- 1950 - Did not qualify
- 1954 - First Round
- 1958 - Semifinals (3rd place)
- 1962 - Did not qualify
- 1966 - First Round
- 1970 - Did not qualify
- 1974 - Did not qualify
- 1978 - First Round
- 1982 - Semifinals (4th place)
- 1986 - Semifinals (3rd place)
- 1990 - Did not qualify
- 1994 - Did not qualify
- 1998 - CHAMPIONS
- 2002 - First Round
- 2006 - Runners-up
- FIFA member since: 1904
- Team nickname: Les Blues
- All-time caps leader: Lilian Thuram (142)
- All-time leading scorer: Thierry Henry (51 goals)
- European Champions: 1984, 2000
- Confederations Cup Champions: 2001, 2003
- Under-21 European Champions: 1988
- Under-19 European Champions: 1949, 1983, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2005
- Under-17 European Champions: 2004
- Under-17 World Champions: 2001
- Olympic Gold Medal: 1984
- Olympic Silver Medal: 1900
- Michel Platini: A veteran of three World Cups (1978, 1982, 1986), Platini ranks among the greatest players of all time. The elegant Frenchman was a brilliant playmaker in midfield who anchored France's national side for years, and led them to victory in the 1984 European Championship. He's the only player to be voted European player of the year three times in a row (1983-85). Helped Juventus win the European Cup in 1985.
- Zinedine Zidane: The second coming of Michel Platini, Zidane was a brilliant midfield maestro who led France to victory at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. Affectionately known as "Zizou," Zidane is considered the greatest player of his era, having won the FIFA world player of the year three times (1998, 2000 and 2003) and the Ballon d'Or in 1998. He won the Champions League in 2003 with Real Madrid, who paid Italian club Juventus a world transfer fee record of $71.5 million in 2001.