France reached the World Cup amid great controversy. Failing to display the skills fans have come to expect out of the nation, France had to struggle through qualification. Placing second behind Serbia they had to do a playoff against Ireland to determine who would reach South Africa. In the 2nd leg of the playoff, Ireland had evened out the goal aggregate and the teams were heading into extra time, only for a handball from striker Thiery Henry to reach the onrushing William Gallas to score the goal and send the French through. Irish fans will never forget this, but the rest of the world is left asking, does France deserve to be at the Cup?
The star quality is there in all positions, but the bad qualification run leaves some doubts. Luckily for France, they are easily still the best team in their group. In theory most betting people will expect them to win all their matches, and this is likely. As such the real test for France will be once they get to the knockout stage, where they will most likely be facing S. Korea, who they should once again beat, but then come up against a very strong England squad, which on paper will run circles around the French. Les Bleues will have to be at their best in order to make a strong showing, and not have a repeat of qualification.
Anelka has been on fire lately for both club and country, to the point where I feel he now outshines Henry. He should be starting the games, and expect him to be the leading scorer for the French side.
Ribery and Malouda on the the wings will provide some good speed that will trouble some other nations, particularly because these two are also very strong players with the technical skill to dribble around double marking.
The defense all around is actually really good for France, and they will give up few goals, but they will have to score some points if they don’t want to finish in goalless draws. The key for France is to show up, forget about qualifying, forget about disappointing club seasons, and forget about the South African home crowd. If they can do these things then the classical French will shine in this years tournament.
My Prediction: Quarter Finals