Can France Ride Perfect Storm To Final?

There's no Franck Ribery but there's also no in-fighting in a French camp that is traditionally fractious. Tim Stannard is our Spanish expert but he's feeling French...

Last Updated: 12/06/14 at 18:09 Post Comment

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There is a something a little bit lacking from this World Cup - a national team arriving in Brazil in a state of internal turmoil. Normally, the French and Dutch are guaranteed to produce a bit of training-ground drama, but in 2014 the Netherlands appear too disinterested to squabble whilst the French seem to be completely floating on air.

Indeed. It is all quite disconcerting. Didier Deschamps has all been with the talk of hearts filled with joy and the French finally enjoying being at the heart of the action. Very un-gallic. Part of this must stem from France being a whisker away from not being at the World Cup at all, having been forced to overcome Ukraine in an emotional play-off battle that put French nerves and tempers through the wringer. Another is the fact that there is a fresh, zesty feel to the team with several players hitting form in time for Brazil and others new to the whole affair.

France should have been on a bit of a downer, the usual reaction to a country arguably losing its star player. Instead, the absence with a back injury of Franck Ribery, supposedly the third best footballer in the world, has been swiftly forgotten. The final farewell of the French team in Paris with a 8-0 demolition of Jamaica showed a confident, swaggering side. Of course, World Cup friendlies are no indication of true form and all that jazz but nearly hitting double figures can't be bad. "It's about having collective strength," explained Deschamps after the game.

Two of the goals and two assists came from the normally somnambulant Karim Benzema, recently buoyed by a Champions League win. The absence of Ribery released the dynamism of Antoine Griezmann - one of the best players in La Liga outside the top three - as the winger came off the bench to score two strikes.

Griezmann is expected to make a big summer move after the World Cup, as is Paul Pogba, despite currently playing for the Italian champions. The Juventus man is an immense presence in midfield, a combination of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit in strength and dynamism, but with a bit of magic thrown in. Pogba is joined in midfield by the quality of Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi, the PSG men giving the French side strength in depth.

France will enjoy the advantage of a simple group, which sees the side paired with Switzerland, the statistical anomaly of the FIFA rankings, along with Honduras and Ecuador. Deschamps could not have picked a friendlier start to the Brazil festivities.

Whilst picking a European football giant and a former winner as a dark horse is hardly bold, this is a French side that looks built to raise a few roofs during the World Cup. Rather than been a tempestuous squad, the French team may well be a perfect storm that can blow its way to the World Cup final.

Tim Stannard

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