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World Cup 2018: France’s all-time best World Cup XI


World Cup 2018: France’s all-time best World Cup XI

How many of France’s triumphant World Cup 1998 side make it into our XI?

CONSIDERING they’ve produced some of the greatest players to ever grace the game, it’s perhaps somewhat surprising that France have only won the World Cup once, on home soil in 1998.

That memorable tournament, which crowned Zinedine Zidane, thanks to a headed brace in the final, as the world’s best player, will live long in the memory, but Les Bleus have produced several championship-worthy sides who fell just short in World Cups before and since.

We’ve put together an all-time France World Cup XI, made up not only of heroes of the ’98 tournament, but also some of football greatest stars of the past.

France World Cup XI

4-4-2

GK: Fabien Barthez

Veteran of three World Cups – 1998, 2002 and 2006 – former Manchester United goalkeeper Barthez is France’s joint-highest World Cup appearance maker, level with Thierry Henry on 17 appearances on the game’s grandest stage, 

Remembered in England as somewhat of a liability thanks to a hit-and-miss three seasons at Old Trafford, the bald custodian, when at his best, was one of the world’s finest shot-stoppers, with his hair-trigger reflexes making up for his lack of height at 5ft 11ins. 

Barthez won the Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup, when he was an ever-present for the victorious home nation, conceding only two goals in seven games. 

RB: Lillian Thuram

Forever remembered for a brace in Les Bleus’ 2-1 semi-final victory over Croatia in 1998 – his only international goals – Thuram was the world’s greatest right-back, before later leading France to the 2006 final as a centre-half.

Recipient of the Bronze Ball as the third-best player at the ’98 tournament, Thuram - who enjoyed spells with Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona - during a glittering club career, is France’s most-capped player, turning out for his county 142 times between 1994 and 2008.

CB: Marcel Desailly

Sent off for two second-half bookings in the 1998 final against Brazil, Desailly’s World Cup legacy could have taken on a very different complexion had France not cruised to a 3-0 victory at the Stade de France.

Throughout that triumphant campaign, though, the former AC Milan and Chelsea centre-back exuded his usual grace and class.

CB: Laurent Blanc

Like Barthez, most English football fans associate Blanc with an ill-fated spell at Manchester United. But in 1998, the former Marseille and Barcelona defender was one of the world’s finest centre-backs.

A calming influence at the back, Blanc would famously kiss Barthez’s bald head for luck before each game at the ’98 tournament. His luck ran out in the semi-final win over Croatia, however, when a red card meant he would miss the final.

LB: Bixente Lizarazu

Along with Roberto Carlos, who lined up on the opposite side of the 1998 final, Bayern Munich’s Lizarazu was one of the world’s best left-backs during his peak.

Despite his small stature, standing just 5ft 7ins, Lizarazu was a tenacious defender whose pace and willingness to bomb forward was an asset in attack. A mainstay of France’s World Cup success on home soil and European Championship glory two years later, he retired from international football with 97 caps.

CM: Raymond Kopa

A three-time European Cup winner with the legendary Real Madrid side of the 1950s and a Ballon d’Or winner in 1958, Kopa was Les Bleus’ finest player during his 10-year international career.

A wonderfully skilled goal-scoring attacking midfielder, Kopa scored four goals to help France finish third in the 1958 World Cup, losing out to eventual winners Brazil at the semi-final stage.

CM: Patrick Vieira

As a 22-year-old, Vieira came off the bench in the second half of France’s 1998 World Cup final win over Brazil at the Stade de France, with his then-Arsenal midfield partner Emmanuel Petit, scorer of the game’s final goal, preferred to start.

But by 2006, Vieira was the beating heart of the France midfield on their run to the final in Germany, scoring twice, against Togo and Spain, along the way.

AM: Zinedine Zidane

France’s greatest ever player, Zidane was the driving force behind Les Bleus’ first, and thus far only, World Cup win, on home soil in 1998. His double in the final victory over Brazil ensured his first of three FIFA World Player of the Year Awards that year.

In the twilight of his career, aged 34, the eminently gifted playmaker dragged an unfancied France side to the World Cup final in 2006, showing ice-in-the-veins coolness to net a ‘Panenka’ penalty before inexplicably head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi and getting sent off.

It was a desperately unfitting way to end one of the great international careers, and who knows how France might have fared in the penalty shootout had their captain remained on the pitch. Alas, the Azzurri triumphed, but Zidane’s 108 Les Bleus appearances should not be tarnished by one moment of madness.

AM: Michel Platini

The star of France’s 1984 European Championship success, scoring nine of Les Bleus’ 14 goals in the tournament, Platini was never quite able to replicate that success at the World Cup.

He did, however, drive France to fourth- and third-place finishes in the 1982 and ’86 tournaments respectively, both times narrowly defeated at the semi-final stage, and was a scorer in three different World Cups.

ST: Just Fontaine

With 13 goals Fontaine is France’s all-time leading World Cup scorer. What’s more, his remarkable return was achieved in a single finals tournament, bagging a baker’s dozen at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

At club level, Fontaine is most associated with the dominant Stade Reims side of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, for whom he made 131 appearances, scoring 122 goals and winning three French Division 1 titles, before injury forced his premature retirement aged just 28.

ST: Thierry Henry

Arsenal legend Henry was a lightning-quick 20-year-old winger as France earned World Cup glory in 1998, but by the time the 2006 tournament in Germany came around, he had been converted into one of the World’s best strikers by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.

Level on five World Cup goals with Zidane and Platini, only Fontaine has more strikes to his name on the biggest international stage for Les Bleus than Henry, who, with 123 caps and 51 goals, is his country’s all-time highest scorer and second-highest appearance-maker.

Bet on the World Cup

The World Cup this year promises to be a cracker with five or six teams within a definite chance of winning the tournament.

Right now, France are third favourites and have a favourable group so should progress to the last-16 with confidence.

Whether or not they can overcome tournament favourites Germany or Brazil is another thing.

Be sure to check out our extensive, award-winning sportsbook for the Word Cup, where you’ll get all the best odds and hundreds of in-play markets before and during the tournament.

 

 

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