Coach: Raymond Domenech
World Ranking: 8
Key Player: Franck Ribery
World Cup Record: Qualified for 12 finals. Winners in 1998
Group A Schedule:
11 June – Uruguay v France
17 June – France v Mexico
22 June – France v South Africa
We are all too aware of how France made it to South Africa, with Thierry Henry’s 'hand of god' intervention on that night in Paris, guaranteed an insert into ‘Reeling In The Years – 2009.'
Prior to the play-off with the Irish, Raymond Domenech's side were far from impressive in the Group stages. A point that surely must have entered Giovanni Trapattoni’s mind, and beggars the question why he didn’t set up his side to attack more in the first leg of the play-off at Croke Park.
Okay, that’s water under the bridge now, but what remains is the seemingly unending flow of unpopularity in the direction of Domenech. He is cited as the reason why France have underachieved in recent years, despite the talent at his disposal. What credit he has in the bank was garnered from steering to Les Bleus to the final in Germany four years ago.
However, his managerial stock took a nosedive following a lethargic effort by the French at Euro 2008.
Any team boasting the likes of William Gallas at the back and the likes of Jeremy Toulalan and Floren Malouda in midfield has the pieces in place to provide a formidable thrust.
Add in the emergence of Yoann Gourcuff, the talent of Franck Ribery and the rejuvenation of Nicolas Anelka, and the attacking options are well served.
The loss of Lassana Diarra, through injury is a blow, and Domenech's decision to exclude Benzema from the squad was surprising.
Many experts feel that France will fail to make an impact in South Africa. Such an assessment is surprising when glancing at their squad. The players will be keen to make such pundits and other prophets of doom eat their words.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Defenders: William Gallas (Arsenal/ENG), Eric Abidal (Barcelona/ESP), Bakary Sagna (Arsenal/ENG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ENG), Gael Clichy (Arsenal/ENG), Marc Planus (Bordeaux), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Sebastien Squillaci (Sevilla/ESP)
Midfielders: Abou Diaby (Arsenal/ENG), Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux), Florent Malouda (Chelsea/ENG), Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon)
Strikers: Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea/ENG), Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos/GRE), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Toulouse), Sidney Govou (Lyon), Thierry Henry (Barcelona/ESP), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich/GER), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)