The manner of France’s qualification for the World Cup has convinced many to write off Raymond Domenech’s side but drawing such a rash conclusion would be naïve.
After the Thierry Henry handball, stuttering displays, controversial team selections and lurid headlines, most people fancy France to head home early. However, Domenech’s squad contains an abundance of winners from Europe’s best teams.
Thierry Henry and Eric Abidal at Barcelona, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda at Chelsea, and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery have all enjoyed title-winning seasons, as have Mathieu Valbuena and Steve Mandanda at Marseille.
In addition, both Bordeaux and Lyon went on good runs in the Champions League and the eight players picked from those clubs will have benefited from experiencing the latter stages of such a high-pressured competition.
And of course Raymond Domenech has proved the doubters wrong before. He guided France to the final of the last World Cup, knocking out Spain, Brazil, and Portugal along the way.
This time round he’s imposed his mark on the side by leaving out big name players Patrick Vieira, Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri. With reinforcements like Abou Diaby, Jeremy Toulalan and Djibril Cisse such a decision should be seen as strong, rather than eccentric, management.
Should France win Group A, as they’re fancied to, a meeting with Nigeria in the last 16 seems likely. Beyond that, England possibly lie in wait.
Think France are underrated? You can still get them at 16/1 to win the whole thing.