World Cup - Country profile: France

After battling through the play-offs, France are a team with a point to prove following the events of 2010.

Reuters
World Cup - Country profile: France
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France coach Didier Deschamps and his team celebrate after winning their 2014 World Cup qualifying second leg play-off against Ukraine (Reuters)

Form and prospects

France were always going to struggle to qualify directly, being in the same Group I as Spain. They finished three points behind the world champions, but scored more goals, and their only defeat was 1-0 by Spain in Paris. They recovered pride by drawing the return leg 1-1 in Madrid.

In the playoffs, Didier Deschamps' team lost the first leg 2-0 in Ukraine, triggering nationwide despondency. But France recovered with panache to win the return leg 3-0.

Predicting how France will fare at the finals is tough because Les Bleus have had vastly different levels of success since their 1998 triumph on home soil.

They were eliminated in the first round of the 2002 World Cup, finished runners-up in 2006 and were knocked out in the first round in 2010 amid much off-pitch drama.

The team have improved under Deschamps with youngsters such as Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba blooming.

Varane and Mamadou Sakho could form a decent central defence behind a Yohan Cabaye-Pogba-Blaise Matuidi trident with Franck Ribery leading the front three should Deschamps stick to a 4-3-3 formation.

France's weakness is the fullbacks, Patrice Evra or Gael Clichy (left), and Mathieu Debuchy or Bacary Sagna (right), being suspect defensively.

Deschamps also needs to unearth a killer striker with Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema yet to prove themselves on a regular basis.

Coach: Didier Deschamps

Deschamps was appointed when his former France team-mate Laurent Blanc declined to extend his contract after Les Bleus were eliminated in the quarter-finals at Euro 2012.

The 45-year-old won the World Cup, a European Championship, the Champions League and multiple national titles in a 16-year playing career as 'water carrier', but also as team captain.

He brought this winning mentality to his coaching career, leading Monaco to the 2004 Champions League final before helping Juventus return to Serie A after a match-fixing scandal in 2007.

Deschamps, who deals well with pressure, led Olympique Marseille to their first French league title in 18 years in 2010.

Key player: Franck Ribery

Ribery completed his return to grace this year after a disastrous 2010 when he was France's inspiration in their qualifying campaign.

The Bayern Munich maestro, who also helped his club clinch a Champions League-Bundesliga-German Cup treble, has scored six and set up nine of France's last 27 goals.

In 2010, Ribery was involved in the French players' strike at the World Cup, but he has since apologised and shown his best form, shaking up defences with his dazzling runs.

"Ribery is a player capable of making the difference any time," says Deschamps.

How they qualified

Runners-up Europe Group I.

World Cup record

Previous appearances 13 (1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).

Best performance: Winners 1998.

Odds

33-1.

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