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FIFA World Cup: France team preview

For all those who have seen France in their prime will agree that they will start as one of the favourites.

France's football team poses for photographers just before their friendly against Jamaica on Sunday. (Source: Reuters) France’s football team poses for photographers just before their friendly against Jamaica on Sunday. (Source: Reuters)

Many criticised France for their disastrous campaign in the 2010 where they bowed out from the group stage. The Les Blues had not only left their fans scarred by their acrimonious exit, the player-coach tussle and the fracas that ensued, also had a severe impact on the players who have the incident etched in their memories even after four years. They failed to even reach the round of 16. But it was not for the first time.

For all of those who have seen France in their prime from 1998 till 2001 will agree that the Hugo Lloris-led side will start as one of the favourites to lift the Cup. The pressure of being the favourites from their group may have a negative effect on France when they kick-start their campaign on June 15 against Honduras.

The team struggled in the qualifiers; beaten by Japan, Spain and Brazil they  had to face Ukraine in the play-offs. After losing the first leg 0-2, France bounced back to win the second leg 3-0 and qualified for the World Cup in Brazil. Coach Didier Deschamps used all his collective experience to select France’s 23-man squad for the World Cup, and he may have just got it right like when he decided to use the 4-3-3 formation to help France qualify for Brazil. The Les Blues struck gold when they were placed in Group E alongside Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras, which may not pose a challenge to France.

GROUP RIVALRY

France has a habit of struggling in the group stages but given their opponents this time, they are likely to qualify for the knock-out stage and finish at the top of the group to avoid a clash with Argentina in the round of 16. But the opponents can surprise France as Ecuador has the backing of the South American crowd and Honduras will play France for the first time. That leaves Switzerland, which managed to draw the game against France on the last three occasions, to capitalise on their record and push for the top spot. Even if France does that, they are most likely to face Germany in the round of 16 which will do no good to them.

FORMATION

Playing as a team will be key to success in Brasil for France, especially, after what happened in 2010. Deschamps after selecting the squad said that they may not be the most talented players but they are the best he could pick. Surely he was talking about the player’s behavior and conduct, both on and off the field. He also picked the squad best suited for the 4-3-3 formation. Franck Ribery’s injury could not have come at a worst time but many saw it coming.

This World Cup will put Deschamps’ tactics and his techniques to the test.Deschamps has toyed with 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and 4-4-2 during the qualifiers before settling down on 4-3-3, which he regards as the best suited formation for the players he has picked.

This leaves France with one job in hand – win. It won’t be purely about results this time but also about the struggle to win back the
faith of their fans after the 2010 debacle.

STAR WATCH

Blaise Matuidi

Energy, rawness and athleticism define the PSG midfielder who has become an integral part of the national team. He will surely make the
world take notice of his sublime skill when he takes field for France. The undisputed trio of Matuidi, Paul Pogba and Yohan Cabaye will be a key factor for France to go deep into the tournament. Matuidi’s ability to play 90-minutes is a plus and it would be a surprise if he fails to do that in the heat of Brazil.

Blaise Matuidi celebrates his second goal against Jamaica in their friendly game. (Source: Reuters) Blaise Matuidi celebrates his second goal against Jamaica in their friendly game. (Source: Reuters)

Hugo Lloris

He is the best player for France in his position and will be one of the best goalkeepers heading to Brazil. A natural leader and a gifted goalkeeper, Lloris will have a major role to play if France qualifies for the knock-out stage. With injury to Steve Mandanda, Lloris is their best bet.

France's captain Hugo Lloris jumps to catch the ball during a training session ahead of the World Cup. (Source: Reuters) France’s captain Hugo Lloris jumps to catch the ball during a training session ahead of the World Cup. (Source: Reuters)

Paul Pogba

The midfielder has a huge task cut out for him. His ability to move swiftly past the opponents and hoick balls behind enemy lines makes his a potential threat. If he can replicate his success at Juventus once again in Brasil then he will be place on the highest pedestal in the French football history.

Paul Pogba (L) kicks the ball next to Havard Nordtveit of Norway during their international friendly. (Source: AP) Paul Pogba (L) kicks the ball next to Havard Nordtveit of Norway during their international friendly. (Source: AP)

Antoine Griezmann

For France, Franck Ribery’s injury was a shocker. The  shock was somewhat disguised by the fact that 23-year-old Griezmann can fill boots. His performance at international level showed us that he can handle the pressure at the biggest stage. With Valbuena as his partner at front, he can go onto achieve big things for France.

Antoine Griezmann (C) fights for the ball with Jamaica's Simon Dawkins during their international friendly. (Source: Reuters) Antoine Griezmann (C) fights for the ball with Jamaica’s Simon Dawkins during their international friendly. (Source: Reuters)

Mathieu Valbuena

The attacking-midfielder’s passion for the game is unparalleled. He is the launchpad for every attack in the team. Deschamps’
team will rely on the forward line to carry them through and Valbuena may well be the man. He has all the ammunition to pull the strings of the team.

Mathieu Valbuena (L) challenges Paraguay's Junior Alonso during their international friendly ahead of the World Cup. (Source: Reuters) Mathieu Valbuena (L) challenges Paraguay’s Junior Alonso during their international friendly ahead of the World Cup. (Source: Reuters)
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