World Cup 2014 Team-by-Team Guide: France set for QF exit
Past tournaments: 1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010
Previous Best: Winners – France 98
How they got here: France qualified by the skin of their teeth after a heroic second-leg performance against Ukraine saw them overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit to go through.
In all honesty though top spot was always going to be a big ask with Spain in their qualifying group and although they took just one point from their two meeting with la Roja, a 0-0 away draw with Georgia was the only other fixture that failed to bring a win for Didier Deschamps’ boys.
Star man: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
There will be plenty of responsibility placed on the shoulders of Benzema after French talisman Franck Ribery was ruled out of the tournament through injury.
The Real Madrid star filled the injured Bayern Munich man’s position on the left side of France’s attack in their 8-0 drubbing of Jamaica, scoring twice and laying on another goal for Olivier Giroud and France will be confident of going deep into the tournament in Brazil with the 26-year-old firing on all cylinders.
The Champions League winner has scored 21 goals in 66 appearances for his country and will be desperate to add to his tally on the biggest stage of them all.
Under the radar: Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad)
With just one senior cap and having not featured in any of the qualifiers Griezmann was something of a shock inclusion in the France squad but if he gets some game time opponents would be wise not to take the 23-year-old lightly.
The Sociedad winger has been attracting glances from the Premier League’s top clubs after his most successful season yet saw him grab 20 goals from 49 games in midfield.
Check out this Champions League wonder strike from the youngster:
Team nutcase: Paul Pogba (Juventus)
After lifting the Scudetto with Juve, former club Manchester United are ruing the decision to let him go but while his brilliance is clear to see Pogba is not the model professional.
The 21-year-old was one of just two France players to be given his marching orders in qualifying – for a studs-up challenge on Spain’s Xavi – and was once sent packing for Man United for showboating from the penalty spot!
Watch Pogba pick up a second yellow for this FA Youth Cup penno (1:55):
How will they get on?
With the defensively-minded Swiss their biggest rivals in a group also containing Ecuador and Honduras France will be disappointed with anything other than top spot.
Achieve this and the quarter-finals beckon with Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia the likely opposition in round two.
This though sets up a quarter-final with Germany and while the French can beat anyone on their day the big egos in the squad will struggle against a more cohesive and disciplined Germany.
To win the World Cup: 20/1
Best World Cup Bet: Ribery top France goalscorer – 4/1
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