Great Team Tactics: How France Conquered World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 12, 2012

12 Jul 1998:  Joy for France as Zinedine Zidane scores one of his two goals during the World Cup Final against Brazil at the Stade de France in St Denis. France won 3-0.  \ Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster /Allsport
Stu Forster/Getty Images

In Bleacher Report's latest look at "great team tactics," we check in on the French national team that conquered the 1990 FIFA World Cup and then subsequently Euro 2000.

Aimé Jacquet and Roger Lemerre both coached to considerable success, but what did they do differently to each other between the two prestigious wins?


World Cup win with Jacquet

France enjoyed considerable home advantage for the 1998 World Cup, but were still overwhelming underdogs heading into the final against Brazil.

The team that hoisted football's biggest prize will forever be remembered as the team who utilised the worst striker ever to lift the trophy as a member of the starting XI, but also as the playground for the world's best No. 10.

Jonathan Wilson illustrates the French national manager's problem heading into the tournament in his book Inverting the Pyramid:

Aimé Jacquet's problem was accomodating Zinedine Zidane, one of the greatest playmakers the world has known, but a player of limited pace and almost no defensive instinct.

His solution was to give him effectively a free role, but to do that without destabilising the team defensively, the followed the Italian convention and fielded three whose function was primarily defensive—Didier Deschamps, Emmanuel Petit and Christian Karembeu.

The formation he opted for in the end looked a little like this:

Stéphane Guivarc'h played as a target man, while Youri Djorkaeff played as a trequartista who often ended up in a pure striking role.

The back four were encouraged to surge forward—even the central defenders—and the goal (video) below epitomises the free role Zidane enjoyed by dropping deep and also the attacking role Lillian Thuram had to score a great goal.

Many asked exactly what Guivarc'h did during the tournament—he didn't score a single goal, but he is widely acknowledged to have tired opposing defenders out for Thierry Henry to come on late and take advantage of.

He also opened up pockets of space for other players to play in, but it's the Emile Heskey debate all over again, isn't it?


Euro Euphoria with Lemerre

Lemerre took the reins from Jacquet after he stepped down and made some subtle changes to the team.

Zidane was still dictating that France employ some defensive midfielders, but with the emergence of Patrick Vieira, they had a man good enough to allow a switch to 4-2-3-1.

Djorkaeff still played his advanced role, Henry had become the de facto No. 1 choice and Christophe Dugarry filled in alongside Zidane.

The onus was still on Bixente Lizarazu and Thuram to provide all the width, while Zidane reigned supreme in the No. 10 role.