France were never overly impressive on their way to qualifying for Russia, but have the players to go all the way.
Honours: World Cup 1998; European Championship, 1984, 2000.
FIFA Ranking: 7
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Les Bleus were never overly impressive on their way to winning Group A, they lost to Sweden, and drew with Belarus and Luxembourg (!) but still won their group by four points. The position of Hugo Lloris has come under question after the high profile error in the 2-1 reverse against Sweden and in the recent 3-1 friendly victory over Sweden, and Didier Deschamps’ men will need to raise their level if they are to reach their potential.
STAR MAN – Antoine Griezmann
The Atleti forward has never player at the highest level in France but will spearhead his country’s hopes of winning a second World Cup.
His game has taken on another dimension since his switch to Atletico Madrid after the 2014 World Cup, and he was awarded the player of the tournament award at Euro 2016, where France made the final on the back of his dynamic forward play and goals..
NEXT BIG THING – Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe is a prodigy in every sense of the word. The then 18-year-old led Monaco to the Champions League semi-finals and the French title in a breakthrough 2016-17 season.
His performances saw him emerge as the most sought after player in world football and in the close season he made the switch to PSG, on loan first, but with an option to buy that is said to be worth €145 million.
Mbappe has fully justified that fee at both club and international level. He marries blinding pace with technical excellence, a key eye for goal and a pass.
THE COACH – Didier Deschamps
Didier Deschamps enjoyed a storied career as a player, lifting the Champions League with Olympic Marseille in 1993 before captaining the national team to World Cup and European Championship glory.
He began his coaching career at Monaco, reaching the final of the Champions League in 2004, and also had stints at Juventus and Marseille.
He took the reins of national team from Laurent Blanc in 2012, and while rigorous and pragmatic, it is fair to say that despite reaching the quarter-finals in Brazil and the final of Euro 2016, his France side have probably underachieved given their relative riches.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Turbulent. 1998 remains an obvious high point, winning the tournament on home soil. However, excellent tournament in 1982 and 1986, where they finished fourth and third, were followed up of the ignominy of not qualifying in 1990 and 1994.
As defending champions in 2002, they were eliminated in at the Group Stage; while Zinedine Zidane inspired them to the final in 2006, before headbutting Marco Materazzi, ending his career in the tournament and his career in ignominy.
2010 plumbed new lows as some player took strike action but 2014 marked an upturn in fortunes for a young side.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Didier Deschamps has given France direction; whether that direction suits the players at his disposal is open to question. What is in no question is their talent. France have added further firepower since their deflating loss to Portugal in Euro 2016, and should they click, they will be hard to stop.
June 21st: Peru
June 26th: Denmark