- Capital: Paris
- Official Languages: French
- Nicknames: Les Bleus/Bleues (The Blues)
- Association: Fédération Française de Football (FFF)
- FIFA Code: FRA
- Best World Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1998, 2018)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Fourth Place (2011)
- Best Euros Result (Men): WINNERS (1984, 2000)
- Best Euros Result (Women): Quarter Finals (2009, 2013, 2017)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 1st (Various)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 3rd (Various)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 26th (September 2010)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 10th (September 2009)
- Most Capped Player: Sandrine Soubeyrand – 198 caps
- Top Scorer: Eugénie Le Sommer – 86 goals [as of Jan 2021]
The French Republic or France is the current men’s World Cup champions having won their second world championship in the 2018 World Cup. The French have a long and important history within international football having played their first international game in 1904, and then becoming one of the founding members of FIFA in 1904, which was also founded in Paris. It would be Frenchmen who would be the early pioneers of FIFA, and in particular, Jules Rimet (the third president of FIFA) who organised the very first World Cup in 1930, and whom the trophy was initially named after. The French national team competed in the first three global competitions, and hosted the final pre-war tournament in 1938. Their best finish in the World Cup originally was in the 1958 edition when they finished in third place, however, the 1960s and 1970s would become a barren time for the French team with the team only qualifying twice and not getting out of the group. This barrenness was ended by their first golden generation in the 1980s, inspired by the likes of the mercurial Michel Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse, and Luis Fernández, they would win the 1984 European Championships on home soil, whilst reaching the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.
Their finest hour came in 1998, when they repeated the feat of Euro 1984 by winning the World Cup for the first time on home soil by beating defending champions Brazil 3-0 with a team which was considered very cosmopolitan and indicative of modern France. This was followed up with a second Euros victory in 2000 to become the world and European champions at the same time. They reached the World Cup final again in 2006 (famous for the Zidane headbutt) but would miss out on penalties to Italy, and would also progress to the European Championships final held in Paris in 2016, but they could not repeat the trick of 1984 & 1998 when they missed out to Portugal 0-1 after extra time. However, the pain of Euro 2016 would be rectified when they won their second World Cup in 2018, beating Croatia 4-2 to confirm their position as one of the strongest teams in international football, with such impressive depth in positions.
Talking about the defending World Cup champions and the strongest team in international football is the French football-themed Boys From the Banlieues. It is an excellent Twitter account and blogsite which focuses on players from Paris and the wider île-de-France region, Parisian football & the role it plays in society. To find their blogsite and social media accounts, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Player: This is probably a generational preference but there are a few who could be considered for the title of being the ‘greatest French player ever’. Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini, Thierry Henry all get honourable mentions but for me it’s Zinedine Zidane. He was the lynchpin and leader of the side that won the World Cup in 1998 and European Championships two years later. He was the best player in the world in the early 2000’s. A phenomenal player.
Manager: Two men have won a World Cup for France. Aimé Jacquet and Didier Deschamps. Both have very good win percentages (64.2% and 65.7% respectively) but Deschamps has over double the games of Jacquet. Based on that I would go for Deschamps, who was Jacquet’s captain, when he lifted the trophy. The pressure on winning the home World Cup in ‘98 is a valid argument in the favour of Jacquet but based on longevity I’d have to go for Deschamps.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
For the past option, I’m going right back to 1958 and the French/Moroccan striker, Just Fontaine. At the 1958 World Cup in Sweden that year the striker scored an absolutely incredible thirteen goals in six games as France reached the semi-finals. By comparison, it took Gerd Müller two tournaments, while it took Ronaldo (Brazilian) and Miroslav Klose four tournaments to surpass him. The Moroccan-born forward had an unbelievable goal-scoring record for club and country. His French record was 21 games, and 30 goals! I don’t know whether he’s a cult hero or a mythical character with a record like that!
For the present option, I’m going with another striker, Olivier Giroud. It’s his goals, or lack of them, in the 2018 World Cup that has cemented his hero status among French fans. His selflessness and work rate for the team as he looks to create space and pull defenders out of position for the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann are a vital part of Didier Deschamps, France. He does score too, recently becoming France’s second-highest-ever male international goalscorer with 44 goals, just 7 goals behind Thierry Henry.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from France currently?
The strength and depth the current squad possesses is frightening. A ‘B’ squad could quite possibly qualify for a major tournament, it’s that deep! The boys from the banlieues (shameless plug!) are the face of the team with Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé the poster boys. For me Hugo Lloris and Raphaël Varane are huge for this side, their experience and leadership skills are indispensable. For pure talent, though it’s Mbappé. He has everything, pace, power, skill, and can finish. He’s a Balon D’Or winner in waiting.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
They are the World Cup holders, so pretty good. They are very difficult to beat and have an excellent defence. They could maybe do more in an attacking sense with the embarrassment of riches they have, particularly in wide areas. They are maybe missing a truly outstanding striker, as good as Giroud has been he is on the wrong side of 30 and won’t be around forever. Mbappe can play through the middle but he is not what you could describe as a ‘number 9’
Q. Are there any French players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
So many! The production line seems to be endless. Jules Konde could potentially be a truly world-class central defender, Jonathan Bamba has been outstanding for Lille in Ligue 1 this season as has Roman Faivre at Brest. But it’s another Ligue 1-starlet who seems to be head and shoulders above the rest, Eduardo Camavinga. The Rennes midfielder is only 18, he has already made his senior debut for France and scored his first international goal. You’ve all heard of him but remember the name!
Q. Looking at France’s long and illustrious international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
In terms of magnitude for me, there can only be one game. The ‘98 World Cup Final. It was France’s World Cup, they were playing the Brazilian side who had Ronaldo (the best player in the world at the time) in the team, in Paris. The pressure must have been huge on those players. You wouldn’t have known though as they brushed them aside in a 3-0 win. It was Zidane’s final, he would score 2 goals and run the show, Emmanuel Petit scoring the other goal.
- FIFA’s Highlights of the 1998 World Cup Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jGfuLobBQk
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
It’s not the lowest point but Zidane’s last game before retirement being the World Cup Final in 2006, we all know what happened, as he planted his head into Marco Matterazzi’s chest, ending his career with a red card. It was more of a disappointment that such a stellar career ended in that way.
- FIFA’s Highlights of Zidane’s Headbutt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb16JvUCVQs
The lowest spell may have been during the 2010 World Cup after a disagreement between then manager Raymond Domenech and Nicolas Anelka. Which resulted in the player being sent home. The squad decided that they would stand behind the striker rather than the manager. The whole episode was played out in front of the media at the French training base. It took France a couple of years to recover from the whole embarrassing soap opera.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the French national team?
I love the talent that is continuously produced. Ligue 1’s strapline is ‘League of Talents’ and this sums up football in France perfectly. There is so much talent. I love watching the best of the best do it for Les Bleus.
The worst thing, I live in Wales and have never been to France to watch the French national team play. One day, when the normality of everyday life resumes hopefully I’ll be able to get out there.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
There are two that I know of. Les Marseillaise will be sung at most international games by the fans. The other was a song that was adopted by fans during the ‘98 World Cup – ‘I Will Survive‘ by Hermes House Band is a dance version of the 70’s hit.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
I’m a proper football nerd and love all the retro 80’s shirts and the ‘86 World Cup jersey was something special. The ‘98 shirt was top notch too.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the French national team?
More of the same. To watch the current generation grow and in operating the likes of Camavinga, Bamba and Konde into the senior squad. There’s a really exciting generation about to come through and time will tell if they can step up to the senior side. Allez Les Bleus!
A massive merci beaucoup to Boys From The Banlieues for answering our questions on Les Bleus. Remember you can find their excellent account in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.