Shaky France looks for return to World Cup glory

FRANCE

World Ranking: Ninth

Best World Cup result: Champions in 1998

Manager: Raymond Domenech

Probable starting eleven:

Goalkeeper: Hugh Lloris

Defenders: Patrice Evra, Eric Abidal, William Gallas, Bacary Sagna

Midfielders: Jeremy Toulalan, Franck Ribery, Sidney Govou, Yoann Gourcuff, Florent Malouda

Forward: Nicholas Anelka

Key Subs: Thierry Henry,Gael Clichy, Djibril Cisse

In the last World Cup, France finished second.

This year may be a little different as Les Bleus will need to shake off both their controversial qualification and their dismal pre-World Cup showings to make noise in this year’s tournament.

France stumbled in qualifying, needing a playoff against Ireland to make its way back to the World Cup. After winning the first game 1-0, France found itself down 1-0 in the second and final game. With both teams scoring one goal during the playoff, extra time was needed.

It was then that Thierry Henry used his hand to control the ball  before sending it to William Gallas, who scored. The referee did not call the handball, and that goal was all France needed to qualify for South Africa.

Home to some of the best players in the world, the French do have the potential to advance deep into the tournament.

Their final pre-World Cup friendlies have not been very encouraging though. They did defeat Costa Rica 2-1, but then could only muster a 1-1 draw against Tunisia.

The real hit came in their final match where they lost 1-0 to China, the 84th-ranked team in the world.

However, Les Bleus do have recent success to look back on, including winning the World Cup back in 1998.  They also made it to the Finals in 2006, only to lose to Italy in penalty kicks.

Many people probably most remember France for Zinedine Zidane’s head butt and subsequent expulsion in that match.

A central figure for France in this year’s World Cup will be Henry. Following that infamous handball and a lackluster season for Barcelona, the 32-year old’s struggles could either continue during the tournament or he could break out.

France will need the talented goal scorer to play well if it is to make it past the group stage. Despite only netting four goals with his club team this season, Henry is France’s highest scorer with 51 goals in his international career.

Hugo Lloris will be another key player for France. The young goalkeeper played exceptionally well for his country in qualification and was a central figure this season for Lyon as they made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time.

He has also been named the Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year for the past two seasons.

SCHEDULE

June 11 vs. Uruguay

June 17 vs. Mexico

June 22 vs. South Africa