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France – ‘Les Bleus’

France - 'Les Bleus'
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Meet France, the current world champions and one of the most successful national teams throughout football history.

Official name:France
Known as:Les Bleus
Year formed:May 1, 1904
City:Paris
Country:France
Stadium: Stade de France
Colours: Blue (Home) | White (Away)

As one of the most successful national teams in history, France will always be a threat in any competition. Their track record says it all, with two World Cups and European Championships on the books. It makes them one of the most feared and respected sides in football.

History

Officially founded in 1904, the football dream got off to a shaky start for France. They suffered some big early losses, including a humbling 15-0 defeat to England. While FIFA and the Union of French Athletic Sports Societies (USFSA) bickered over holding rights to the national team.

Eventually, though, the French Football Federation intervened and handed FIFA full responsibility. This new-found stability led to improved results and an invitation to the inaugural World Cup in 1930.

The trip to Uruguay, however, ended in disappointment through a group-stage exit. A similar underwhelming display occurred in the 1934 edition, with Austria sending Les Bleus packing in the last-16. Although they went another step further at home in the following World Cup, four years later.

Although it wasn’t until the 1958 World Cup when France truly became a competitive force. Led by legends like Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine, Les Bleus finished a solid third in Sweden. While Fontaine’s tally of 13 goals in the tournament is a record that remains unbeaten to this day.

The French had another close call in the inaugural European Championship in 1960 by exiting in the semi-final stage. Without Kopa or Fontaine, they lost 5-4 to Yugoslavia after blowing a two-goal advantage. And things only got worse once the ‘Golden Generation’ retired, leading to a big slump in results.

No matter what the FFF tried, it ended in disaster. There was just no turning around France’s crisis in the 1960s, no matter who became the manager. They were dark times until a new generation of talented players emerged, including Michel Platini.

The Platini era

By the mid-’70s, France began to improve under Michel Hidalgo. Although it took time for this to develop, with the national team suffering another World Cup group exit in 1978. But the new talented players developed over the upcoming years ahead of the next tournament.

The fruits of France’s hard work finally paid off in the 1982 World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals for the first time in 24 years. While losing to West Germany on penalties was a bitter blow, their exploits in Spain gave hope of a better future.

And that’s exactly what occurred in Euro 1984, where France won a first major international title. At the centre of things was Platini, who scored a record nine goals to help them win all five matches.

Michel Platini of France
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Injuries to Platini and Alain Giresse, however, ultimately cost Les Bleus a chance of World Cup glory in 1986. They instead had to settle for another third-place finish. Platini then took over as manager upon retiring from football two years later.

The Juventus icon made an impressive start by going his opening 19 games unbeaten. He also earned praise for bringing in a new crop of youngsters, including Didier Deschamps and Eric Cantona.

But Platini’s tenure ultimately proved to be unsuccessful as France failed to progress past the group stages in Euro 1992. It ended a bleak start to the 90s, with the national team failing to qualify for the first two World Cups.

Fall from grace

With a certain Zinedine Zidane in the mix, however, France enjoyed its most glorious era to date in the late 90s. They won the 1998 World Cup on home soil before claiming glory in Euro 2000.

The sky was limit until the national side got a brutal reminder they weren’t invincible in the 2002 World Cup. France didn’t even score once in East Asia on route to becoming only the second titleholders in history to crash out of the group phase. Another lacklustre display followed in Euro 2004.

Euro 2004: France v England
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Although Les Bleus got a little redemption two years later by finishing runners-up to Italy in the World Cup. But Zidane’s retirement afterwards left them without an actual leader. The outcome was catastrophic.

Early exits followed in the next three major tournaments, with the 2010 World Cup being a particularly embarrassing affair once the squad went on strike.

Deschamps, Le Sauveur

The man who captained France to World Cup and European glory between 1998 and 2000 returned 12 years later as manager.

After spells in charge of AS Monaco, Juventus and Marseille, Deschamps was ready to try his luck on the international stage. He made an immediate impact on the national squad. Reaching the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals justified this, with France narrowly losing 1-0 to eventual winners Germany.

Then came Euro 2016, where Deschamps’ young squad defeated Germany 2-0 to book a spot in the final. Despite being arguably the stronger team in Paris, however, France lost the final itself to Portugal 1-0 following Eder’s extra-time winner.

But that setback on home soil only fuelled Les Bleus to go one better in the 2018 World Cup. After cruising through the qualification phase, expectations were high. Although their group campaign was a little underwhelming, amid under-par displays in all three games.

For the knockout stages, however, France were a different beast altogether. They convincingly overcame intense challenges from Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium to reach the final in Russia. Then, in front of 78,011 spectators, they beat Croatia 4-2 in Moscow to win a second World Cup.

Now into 2020, Les Bleus are still going strong as one of the world’s best teams.

France v Croatia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final
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Rivals

  • Italy
  • Germany

Records

All-time record appearances

PosPlayerGames
1Lilian Thuram142
2Thierry Henry123
3Marcel Desailly116
4Hugo Lloris (*)114
5Zinedine Zidane108
6Patrick Vieira107
7Didier Deschamps103
8Laurent Blanc97
9Bixente Lizarazu97
10Olivier Giroud (*)97

(*) = Active

All-time record goalscorers

PosPlayerGoals
1Thierry Henry51
2Michel Platini41
3Olivier Giroud (*)39
4David Trezeguet34
5Zinedine Zidane31
6Just Fontaine30
7Jean-Pierre Papin30
8Antoine Griezmann (*)30
9Youri Djorkaeff28
10Karim Benzema27

(*) = Active

Major honours

FIFA World CupEuropean ChampionshipFIFA Confederations CupOlympics
1998, 20181984, 20002001, 2003Gold – 1984

Sources

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