Your Guide to SA 2010 : France


France, the runners up of the Germany 2006 World Cup had one of the most controversial qualifying in the history of World Cup. The World Cup playoff match against Ireland was heading to a penalty shootout with an aggregate score of 1-1. But in the 103rd minute, Thierry Henry controlled the ball with his hand, “twice” and crossed the ball to William Gallas who headed it home to the goal and the French qualified for World Cup 2010, Ireland went packing home.
France finished at the bottom of their group, in the first round of the Euro 2008 competition and had a not-so-inspirational, rather a controversial qualification to reach the South Africa World Cup. France failed to qualify from the group stage in Korea-Japan 2002 and were considered to have overachieved in Germany 2006. Les Bleus have a lot to prove to restore their pride back.

Last World Cup Journey :

France, after being knocked out in the group stages of the World Cup 2002, were expected to come stronger in World Cup 2006 Germany with a boost from Zinedine Zidane, Thuram and Makelele coming out of retirement to save the nation’s pride. But France drew their first two games in the group stages. A goalless draw against Switzerland and 2-2 draw against the mighty Asians Korea Republic. It was almost certain that France would be knocked out, looking at the form of Swiss and Koreans. But fate favoured the French and they scraped through the group stages to knockouts. The French made a fighting comeback and beat the heavyweights Spain, Brazil and Portugal in the Round of 16, QF and SF respectively to reach the World Cup 2006 Finals. The French talisman, Zinedane Zidane was sent off in the Finals for his infamous head-butt incident. The French hopes went dented. They lost to Italy 5-3 on penalties.

The Manager

Raymond Domenech, has become the subject of criticism and hatred among all the French Football fans for his out-of-the-box thinking. His methods are considered to be madcap and with his strategies backfiring, the French team are expected to achieve the least under his coaching, even by their own fans. For all the criticism, Laurent Blanc has already been named as his replacement as manager for the moment the tournament finishes.
But the ray of hope comes for the man who brought Zinedine Zidane , Thuram and Claude Makelele out of retirement to play for the national side and reached the World Cup 2006 Finals only to lose in the penalty shoot-out to Italy. Domenech is a professional. His ways are different from the normal thinking but it is a high time for him to prove. Domenech has to try to save a nation's pride in South Africa knowing that the whole of France cannot wait to be rid of him.



Goalkeepers :
Hugo Lloris , Steve Mandanda , Cédric Carrasso


Defenders :
Bacary Sagna , Patrice Evra , William Gallas , Eric Abidal , Sébastien Squillaci , Marc Planus , Gaël Clichy , Anthony Reveillère

Midfielders :
Alou Diarra , Jérémy Toulalan , Florent Malouda , Yoann Gourcuff , Abou Diaby

Forwards :
Thierry Henry , Nicolas Anelka , André-Pierre Gignac , Franck Ribéry , Sidney Govou , Djibril Cissé , Mathieu Valbuena

Squad Strengths:

France’s Strength is the squad filled with superstars. From the BPL Season 2008-09 top scorer Nicolas Anelka to European Champions league finalist Franck Ribery to the best full backs, Patrice Evra, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna to the mighty Thierry Henry. Good finishers, excellent on the wings, skilled, young and fast mid-fielders and defenders who come forward to attack. An attacking and a tricky team.
The friendly warmup games before the world cup brought forward the weakness of the squad. The French have been creating opportunities but are unable to convert them. Their 1-0 defeat against the humble China has hugely affected the team’s morale in a negative way. If they are to proceed to the knockout stages, France has to work on their finishing and try to convert the chances they create.

Yoann Gourcuff
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Yoann Gourcuff to France. Plays mainly as an attacking midfielder but also can be utilized as a withdrawn striker. Gourcuff is considered to fill the boots of the legendary Zinedine Zidane. He has been inserted into the playmaker role by Domenech. He has won the UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Year award and, in December 2009, was named the French Player of the Year. At 23, Gourcuff is participating in his first World Cup, the success of France is highly dependent on this playmaker along with the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Franck Ribery, Thiery Henry and the captain, Patrice Evra.

Les Bleus have a strong squad on paper. But when it comes to the field, somehow the French fail to shine. Despite being the top seeded team in their group which consists of Mexico, Uruguay and the hosts, South Africa, France will have to face tough competition from all the teams in order to qualify for the knockout rounds.
France’s success will highly depend on the strategies of their much criticised coach Raymond Domenech. If his strategies backfire, France may very well get knocked out in the first round itself. But if Domenech is able to emulate the comeback like the one in the last World Cup, the Les Bleus might even go on to win the coveted Trophy.

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