15-June Honduras (8pm GMT Porto Alegre)
20-June Switzerland (8pm GMT Salvador)
25-June Ecuador (9pm GMT Rio de Janeiro)
This French side may not be Le Grand Cuisine of football anymore, but Didier Deschamps does have a team worthy of making the final eight. Rossella Marrai takes a look at how they could get on.
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Deschamps took over from Laurent Blanc in July 2012 following the latter’s resignation from the post after a disappointing campaign in the Euros. He will be one the freshest Coaches to be on the bench in Brazil, having only overseen 20 games in the space of two years. Still, their qualifying campaign via the play-offs was far from convincing, and this tournament will be a chance to see how Deschamps and his men can deal with the big stage.
Why they could be dangerous
There is an exciting air of youth and experience in the squad, and although the team may not possess the world-class names of the generation before, they are capable of forming an upset. World football’s elite clubs are already hunting Juventus’ Paul Pogba and should he be able to grasp what his teammates do on the park, combined with the attacking players in Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery and Loic Remy, victories can be accomplished. There is no doubt more emphasis will be put on France’s attacking side of things.
The world on his shoulders: Paul Pogba
For many years the French nation have weighed their expectations on the small frame of Franck Ribery, this year they wouldn’t be faulted for perhaps parking some off on to Paul Pogba. The Juventus star has grown from strength to strength in Turin and has offered the Old Lady everything from creativity, wonder strikes and defensive work. At the beginning of 2014 he struggled for consistency, but putting him under the spotlight will be a sure way to fire him up. After all, he has to repay Deschamps for the faith shown in handing him a first team call-up.
Did you know?
Les Bleus are the rise and flounder of nations in the World Cup. In 2002 they became only the third side to fail to get past the group stages of the competition after having won the previous tournament. They did something similar in South Africa in 2010, where they again failed to make it into the knock-out stages having finished off as runners-up in Germany 2006.
Country legend: Michel Platini
Michel Platini could be described as the epitome of what a No 10 should be – a tireless playmaker, with an incredible vision on the ball. The current President of UEFA was a catalyst in the dominating French era in the early 80s where he went on to win a European Championship. He played a specific role in inspiring France to one of the greatest matches of all time against West Germany in Spain ’82. And two years later he was back on the scene leading his nation to lift the Euro trophy in his own backyard, scoring nine of Les Bleus’ 14 goals in just five matches. It was also the country’s first ever-major international title.
Given the quality and talent France possesses, it is quite puzzling as to why they have struggled so often in recent times. Deschamps, like Raymond Domenech before him, prefers to use a 4-2-3-1 formation. This is an exciting balance of creativity, speed, wide play and defensive stability, as the likes of Yohan Cabaye will sit in front of the defence. Up front, Benzema is always a threat for any team and when partnered with the tricky feet of Ribery and Pogba, they could seriously shine.
…Switzerland P36 W15 D9 L12 F58 A62
…Ecuador P1 W1 D0 L0 F2 A0
…Honduras P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0
Population: 65.7 million
World Cup appearances: 13
Best finish: Winners, France 1998
Famous for: Les Bleus owned the world soccer stage for two years where they procured the World Cup title in 1998 and the Euro 2000 crown. They also became the first team in history to win the World Cup and Euro in a row.
Top Division: Ligue 1
How they got to the World Cup: Once again France were forced to revert to the play-offs to seal their fate in the World Cup. They almost looked destined not to make the trip to Brazil, losing 2-0 away in Ukraine, but a strong showing in the reverse leg saw them comeback with a 3-0 victory.
FIFA World Ranking: 16
Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Group stage exit following one draw and two defeats.
Continental Honours: 1998 World Cup champions and 1984, 2000 European champions
Most Capped Player: Lilian Thuram (142 caps)
Leading International Scorer: Thierry Henry (51 goals)
Nickname: Les Bleus – The Blues