5 Reasons Why France Are Genuine World Cup Contenders
Despite their struggles to score goals and the fact that they are sitting second in World Cup 2014’s Group I of qualification, France will still be among the favourites for the title should they reach the tournament in Brazil.
Les Bleus trail World and European champions Spain in Group I by a single point, a position they arguably would have accepted at the start of qualifying. But that does not detract from the overall quality at Didier Deschamps’ disposal at present.
La Furia Roja are of course gunning for a second consecutive World Cup win and an unprecedented fourth straight international trophy.
Although French football might not appear to be in the best of health according to Ligue 1’s representation in Europe, with the exceptions of Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille, the country is still producing plenty of talent.
With Euro 2016 on home soil looming on the horizon, the pressure is on Deschamps to deliver a good performance in South America to demonstrate that France are on course for their own tournament two years later.
Here are five reasons why we can expect them to be contenders in Brazil, assuming they make it.
Didier Deschamps is a coach who excels in cup competitions. In his 12-year managerial career, the former France captain has won six trophies, five of them in his home country.
A 2003 Coupe de la Ligue with AS Monaco has been followed by 2010, 2011 and 2012 success with Marseille. That is three consecutive trophy victories. Add to that a 2010 Ligue 1 title with OM, and the 2007 Serie B win with Juventus FC; it demonstrates a coach who knows how to win trophies.
It is also worth remembering that this is the man who masterminded a route to the 2004 Champions League final for an unfancied Monaco side. He has no problems being considered an underdog.
That will suit a French side that have choked at the last few international tournaments when touted as favourites.
Not only does Deschamps have the pedigree for this type of tournament, but he has also shown himself adept at making the necessary tough decisions to avoid repeating the same mistakes as previous incumbents.
So far, those decisions have kept a particularly troublesome element out of the national squad, allowing him to create a solid and controversy-free spine to the team. But that has come at the expense of a lot of natural talent, particularly creativity.
However, the 44-year-old has shown with the recall of Samir Nasri and now Andre-Pierre Gignac that he also knows when it is time to bring certain problematic characters back into the fold.
Simply put, some evils are necessary ones.
Gignac is not quite a rotten apple, but he and Deschamps had not seen eye-to-eye for a long time since their Marseille days together. He is in good goal scoring form though, and France needs reliable goal scorers while Karim Benzema continues to fire blanks and options appear to be limited.
Mending that bridge was an important move, as could be any potential decision to bring Real Sociedad de Futbol SAD’s talented wide man Antoine Griezmann into the squad once his yearlong ban expires at the end of December this year.
Deschamps has also recognised the importance of having some experience in the squad, with the likes of Mickael Landreau still involved and Eric Abidal welcomed back after long-term absence.
Despite some questionable performances on the international stage in the past few years, resulting in record lows in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings in 2010 and earlier this year, there is still an abundance of talent at Deschamps’ disposal.
Les Bleus can boast UEFA Best Player in Europe Franck Ribery of FC Bayern Munchen, Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris, Arsenal duo Laurent Koscielny and Olivier Giroud, PSG’s Blaise Matuidi, Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena as well as Real Madrid’s Benzema.
There is arguably enough talent there alone to win an international tournament. However, certain players are being singled out as not contributing enough for their international teams.
Ribery, a FIFA Ballon d’Or candidate, was recently targeted by three-time European Ballon d’Or winner Michel Platini as one of those not doing enough when representing France according to L’Equipe (h/t ESPN FC).
Meanwhile former France striker Jean-Pierre Papin told RMC Radio that Benzema, without an international goal in almost 20 hours of play, simply needs to feel “loved” (h/t ESPN FC).
How cute. Someone please give that man a hug!
Strength in Depth
Deschamps is able to select more than just a talented starting XI though.
France are blessed with ability in such volume that almost all positions in the team can be covered at least double.
With strength that deep, it makes France a dangerous opponent in a tournament.
Should Deschamps find himself faced with a spate of injuries or suspensions, the French will arguably be less badly affected than some of the more-fancied sides who have shallower squads.
Part of the reason for the tremendous volume of talent that is available to Deschamps at present is because France is on the verge of a young revolution.
Les Bleuets won the under-20 World Cup this summer and they came runners-up as under-19 European championship finalists. Many of the players in both categories are playing regular first team football for their teams already.
With an eye on 2016, Deschamps could elect to take a large number of young talents to Brazil with many of them predicted to usurp their senior counterparts in the next two-three years.
The likes of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Juventus’ Paul Pogba, Monaco’s Geoffrey Kondogbia and Atletico Madrid’s Josuha Guilavogui have all been involved in Deschamps’ squads already.
Brazil 2014 could be the perfect preparation for France 2016.
Conclusion: A Point to Prove?
The reasons previously mentioned are only valid if acted upon now, and if all elements come together in Brazil next year.
In reality, only a handful of the younger generation are likely to go, when a larger number should be considered as Deschamps turns his eye towards 2016. The evidence is already there of the massive potential that France has because of their achievements at youth level.
Rather than continuing to persevere with a generation that has had its chances and blown them, Les Bleus would arguably benefit more in the long-term from involving some of the next generation now.
Given that France host the Euros just two years after Brazil, this makes the World Cup Deschamps and France’s only chance to get things in place with the aid of competitive football.
Spain’s international dominance was born in the youth levels of international tournaments and there is no reason that the same thing cannot happen for Les Bleus. Euro 2016 is arguably the first milestone in that blueprint for potential success, making Brazil the ideal starting point for a France team that could go on to win both European and World titles.