|Fabien Barthez||Goalkeeper||Olympique Marseille|
|Gregory Coupet||Goalkeeper||Olympique Lyon|
|Eric Abidal||Defender||Olympique Lyon|
|Jean-Alain Boumsong||Defender||Newcastle United (England)|
|Pascal Chimbonda||Defender||Wigan Athletic (England)|
|William Gallas||Defender||Chelsea (England)|
|Willy Sagnol||Defender||Bayern Munich (Germany)|
|Mikael Silvestre||Defender||Manchester United (England)|
|Lilian Thuram||Defender||Juventus (Italy)|
|Vikash Dhorasoo||Midfielder||Paris St Germain|
|Alou Diarra||Midfielder||Racing Lens|
|Claude Makelele||Midfielder||Chelsea (England)|
|Florent Malouda||Midfielder||Olympique Lyon|
|Patrick Vieira||Midfielder||Juventus (Italy)|
|Zinedine Zidane||Midfielder||Real Madrid (Spain)|
|Djibril Cisse||Forward||Liverpool (England)|
|Thierry Henry||Forward||Arsenal (England)|
|Franck Ribery||Forward||Olympique Marseille|
|Louis Saha||Forward||Manchester United (England)|
|David Trezeguet||Forward||Juventus (Italy)|
|Sylvain Wiltord||Forward||Olympique Lyon|
|Head Coach:||Raymond Domenech|
Style of play: With so many world-class attacking players to choose from, it's no surprise that coach Raymond Domenech uses an offensive 4-4-2 lineup. In this formation, the central defenders, Lilian Thuram, William Gallas, anchor the back line, while the outside fullbacks, Willy Sagnol and Eric Abidal, venture up field to join the attack when the chance presents itself. Just in front of the defenders are two central midfielders who are responsible for winning the ball: Claude Makelele stays put and acts as a shield for the back four, while the marauding Patrick Vieira is the link between the defence and forwards. Zinedine Zidane is the fulcrum of the attack, given license to wander from his position on the left into the middle where he wields his special brand of playmaking magic. The two forwards feast on the passes supplied to them, with Thierry Henry playing slightly behind the other striker, David Trezeguet, and dropping back into midfield. From there, Henry is renowned for using the space around him to blow by defenders. The midfielders will try to play the ball over the top of the defence to Trezeguet to make use of his aerial ability.
Probable starting formation (4-2-2): (GK) Fabien Barthez - (D) Willy Sagnol, Lilian Thuram, William Gallas, Eric Abidal - (M) Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele, Alou Diarra - (F) David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry
Forward depth - France has an embarrassment of riches up front. Arsenal's Thierry Henry is considered the best striker in the world, and he is joined by a cast of lethal forwards: Juventus hitman David Trezeguet, Djibril Cisse of Liverpool, Sylvain Wiltord of Olympique Lyon and Manchester United's Louis Saha.
Defence - France's defence, maligned unmercifully in the press for their performance in 2002, appears to have settled. Led by Juventus' Lillian Thuram, Chelsea's William Gallas and Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), the French sported one of the best defensive records in European qualifying with just two goals against in ten games.
Midfield - The French midfield has to be the envy of every other team at the World Cup (except maybe Brazil). Veterans Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane and Claude Makelele run the French engine room, and are supported by the creative Vikash Dhorasoo, and Alou Diarra and Florent Malouda, two very hard workers. Youngster Franck Ribery is a livewire with his attacking runs.
Aging veterans - The core of the team - Zidane, Thuram and Makalele - are all 33 or older and there is some doubts as to whether they'll be able to perform at peak level in Germany, especialy after coming off a long, gruelling season with their clubs.
Tough group - It might not look like it on paper, but France is in tough in Group G - African first-timers Togo aside. Switzerland held France to two draws in the qualifying round and only finished two points behind the French in the final group standings. South Korea is one of the best teams in Asia and capable of upsetting any nation in the world, a point it proved emphatically at the 2002 World Cup. France will not have an easy time of it.
Recent poor form - France hardly looked impressive in the qualifiers. The French should have dominated a group that included Israel, Ireland and Switzerland but struggled to finish in first place (they won five and tied their other five games). The French meekly bowed out to Greece in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004 and are also still dealing with the trauma of their disatrous first-round exit at the 2002 World Cup.
Players to watch:
Zinedine Zidane - It's no coincidence that after Zidane came out of international retirement that France got its act together in the qualifiers and won its group. He is the spark that drives France's attack, a midfield maestro whose inventiveness and creativity on the field reeks of genius. Set to retire at the end of the tournament, Zizou will be looking to go out on a winning note.
Claude Makalele - One of the most underrated players in soocer today. Patrick Vieira may get all the attention for his exqusite two-way play, but it's the combative form of Makalele that holds the French midfield together. Makalele is tough tackler who effortlessly breaks up the oppostion's attack, and its his superb defensive skills in midfield that give Zidane and Vieira the space to wield their playmaking magic.
Thierry Henry - Considered by most the best striker in the world. The fleet-footed Henry is a deadly finisher and a constant goal-scoring threat, who also boasts gazelle-like speed, deft ball control, mazy dribbling skills, and visionary playmaking ability. He is, without question, the single-most dangerous player on the French team and will be looking to make amends for a poor World Cup four years ago.
Key injuries/squad omissions: For some reason, coach Raymond Domenech did not take veteran midfielder Ludovic Giuly, opting instead for youngster Franck Ribery who has yet to play for the national team. Ribery, a 23-year-old attacking midfielder, is coming off a fantastic season, but so is Giuly, who has much more experience. Right fullback Pascal Chimbonda, another uncapped player, was a surprise choice. Other notable absentees include winger Robert Pires, forward Sidney Govou, midfielders Benoit Pedretti and Jerome Rothen, and defender Philippe Mexes. The omission of Mexes makes little sense - he's coming off his best season in years - and is a much more reliable defender than Jean-Alain Boumsong, who did make the team for some reason. Injuries ruled out defender Anthony Reveillere from being selected.
Prognosis: If there is one nation with a point to prove at Germany 2006, it's France. The French entered the 2002 World Cup as the defending world and reigning European champions. Stacked with world class players, most experts predicted the French would easily repeat as champions, but instead they crashed out in the first round without a victory - or a goal. A disappointing showing at Euro 2004 - they folded against eventual champions Greece in the quarter-finals - further sounded the alarm bells in the French camp. There is new optimism ever since Raymond Domenech took over as coach in 2004, though. He was able to recall Zinedine Zidane, Lillian Thuram and Claude Makalele out of international retirement, while at the same time drafting in several young players into the team. The result is a French side brimming with world-class options at every position. The French will win Group G and look a ceratin bet to reach the at least the quarter-finals. Whether or not they progress further will depend in large part on striker Thierry Henry, a star with English club Arsenal but a player who has underachieved with the national team.
Road to the World Cup
Current FIFA Ranking: #8
1st round matches:
June 13 vs. Switzerland in Stuttgart
June 18 vs. South Koera in Leipzig
June 23 vs. Togo in Cologne
2006 qualification route: Finished first in Europe's Group 4 (20 points)
ahead of Switzerland (18 points).
Qualifying record: 10 games played, 5 wins, 5 draws, 0 losses
Goals for: 14 Goals against: 2
Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Djibril Cisse (4)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
Sept. 4, 2004 - France 0, Israel 0
Sept. 8, 2004 - Faroe Island 0, France 2
Oct. 9, 2004 - France 0, Republic of Ireland 0
Oct. 13, 2004 - Cyprus 0, France 2
March 26, 2005 - France 0, Switzerland 0
March 30, 2005 - Israel 1, France 1
Sept. 3, 2005 - France 3, Faroe Islands 0
Sept. 7, 2005 - Republic of Ireland 0, France 1
Oct. 8, 2005 - Switzerland 1, France 1
Oct. 12, 2005 - France 4, Cyprus 0
World Cup History
FIFA member since: 1904
Team nickname: Les Bleus (blues)
All-time caps leader: Marcel Desailly (116)
All-time leading scorer: Michel Platini (41 goals)
Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 11
All-time record: 44 games played, 21 wins, 7 draws, 16 losses
Goals for: 86 Goals against: 61
World Cup History:
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
Biggest victory: 7-3 vs. Paraguay in 1958
Biggest defeat: 5-2. vs Brazil in 1958
Overall top scorer: Juste Fontaine (13 goals)
Most appearances: Maxime Bossis (15 matches)
Hosted the World Cup: 1938 and 1998
European Champions: 1984, 2000
Confederations Cup Champions: 2001, 2003
Under-17 World Champions: 2001
Under-21 European Champions: 1988
Under-19 European Champions: 1949, 1983, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2005
Under-17 European Champions: 2004
Olympic Gold Medal: 1984
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.
Juste Fontaine: Fontaine scored 13 times in the 1958 World Cup, establishing a record for most goals in a single tournament that still stands today. He netted 30 goals in 21 appearances for France, making him one of the most prolific goal scorers in his country's history. Ranks second on the World Cup's all-time scoring list, one goal behind leader Gerd Muller.