Can France defend their World Cup title in Qatar?
The title’s current holders head into the World Cup as one of the favourites, but recent poor results have raised some concerns.
Previous World Cup appearances: 15
Best finish: Winners (1998, 2018)
World Cup record: W34 D13 L19
Biggest win: 7-3 vs Paraguay (1958)
Player to watch: Kylian Mbappe
Fixtures: Australia (November 22), Denmark (November 26), Tunisia (November 30)
Les Bleus will head into the World Cup with high hopes despite a string of poor results that saw them narrowly miss relegation from the Nations League.
The reigning world champions have won just once in their last six fixtures, but still head to Qatar as one of the favourites.
France Manager Didier Deschamps will be forced to make a couple of changes to his team with regular starters N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba missing out due to injury.
With France boasting an embarrassment of riches in midfield, Deschamps will have plenty of players to call upon, including the 22-year-old Aurelien Tchouameni, who has impressed at Real Madrid.
France will expect to progress from Group D, where they have been drawn with Tunisia, Denmark, and Australia. It is almost a copy of their group in the World Cup 2018, where they were drawn with Denmark, Australia and Peru and topped the group with seven points.
Les Bleus at the World Cup
Les Bleus’ first successful tournament came at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where striker Just Fountaine would score 13 goals in six matches.
France would be soundly beaten 5-2 in the semi-final by eventual winners Brazil.
It was in the 1980s that France really announced itself on the international stage, finishing fourth and third in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, respectively, and also winning the 1984 European Championships.
This France team included the likes of the midfield maestro Michel Platini and defender Marius Trésor and played a high-intensity football that produced some of the World Cup’s most dramatic matches, including the famous 3-3 semi-final against West Germany in 1982.
This golden generation would eventually give way to a France team that failed to qualify for the next two World Cups, and the nation would have to wait until 1998 when it hosted the World Cup for the second time in its history.
The 1998 team, which included Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Zinedine Zidane, would go on to win the tournament in emphatic style, beating Brazil 3-0 in the final and ushering in a new period of dominance that would see them pick up another European Championship in 2000.
After being knocked out in the group stages of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, followed by a quarter-final exit to hosts and eventual winners Greece in the 2002 European Championships, France would once again reach the World Cup final in 2004. The tense match against Italy ended 1-1 and would see France lose 5-3 on penalties but will ultimately be best remembered for the infamous headbutt by Zidane on Marco Materazzi.
A fractious 2010 World Cup in South Africa saw Les Bleus exit at the group stages.
Internal turmoil sparked, in part due to a player’s boycott of training after Raymond Domenech dismissed Nicolas Anelka after the striker swore at him and openly criticised him. An improved performance in Brazil in 2014 would ultimately end in disappointment as France went out to Germany in the quarter-finals.
In 2018, following a second place at the 2016 European Championships, France would claim their second World Cup gold at the tournament in Russia, beating Croatia 4-2 in the final.
As one of the tournament’s favourites, France will expect to make at least the semi-finals, if not the final.
Les Bleus should make it through their group with relative ease. In the next phase, they will likely come up against Poland or Mexico, followed by a potential matchup with England, the Netherlands or Senegal if there are no major upsets.
In the semi-final, they could meet the likes of Brazil, Belgium or Germany.
Boasting a squad brimming with world-class talent, they must be considered a real contender to win the World Cup. However, since Brazil defended their title in 1962, no nation has repeated this feat.