France was runner-up in the 2006 World Cup in Germany in what has become infamous for the Zinadine Zidane headbutt near the end of the match. This year France comes into the World Cup as a team under scrutiny for the handball by Thierry Henry during the second leg of a playoff versus Ireland to secure their spot in South Africa. France was very unconvincing in their qualification rounds in what was a weak group they managed to lose to Austria and record three draws one versus eventual group winner Serbia and two against 5th place Romania. They can thank their lucky stars for having Lithuania and the Faroe Islands to beat up on and getting that playoff spot against Ireland. The fall out of the Ireland debacle and their poor performance was a strong support amongst fans to remove Raymond Domenech as coach.
With all of this swirling around the team as they head into the 2010 World Cup, France remains a very talented team. To go along with Thierry Henry France has such capable players as Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, Willam Gallas, and Lassana Diarra. These verterans will be joined by the young and very talented goal scorer André-Pierre Gignac and Domenech has said that if Patrick Viera plays well with his club the oft-injured veteran may well get a spot on the final roster.
Can France put the talent together and make another run similar to 2006? They start out in a difficult but definitely winnable group A and should be the favorites to finish first. However, they will have to be sharp in their first game against Uruguay because that match is followed by another tough one against Mexico. A win and a tie in those two matchups should get them through with their last game being against South Africa but upsets do happen especially with a fired up home team and France’s lack of recent solid play. A loss in the opener and Mexico becomes a must win game and goal differential could decide the group. If France survives and wins the group as their talent on paper would suggest they would get a second round match against Greece or possibly Nigeria and neither of those teams seems to be as good as they have been in the past but should not be taken lightly either. I see France in the quarterfinals and depending on who they draw a possible semi-finals appearance may be in store. Anything beyond that would really shock me and hey they may not make it out of group stage they really are that uncertain.
Other Group A previews: