Outright odds: 25/1
To win group: 5/6
To qualify: 1/5
Full squad: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille), Mickael Landreau (Bastia), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United), Lucas Digne (Paris St Germain) Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Yohan Cabaye (Paris St Germain), Clement Grenier (Olympique Lyon), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St Germain), Rio Mavuba (Lille), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United), Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique Marseille), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad), Loic Remy (QPR), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich).
Manager: Didier Deschamps
World Cup record: Winners (1998), runners-up (2006), third (1958, 1986), fourth (1982)
France’s World Cups seem to have no middle ground. Finalists in 2006 and winners in 1998, they finished bottom of their group in South Africa and South Korea and Japan. The typical stereotype is that France blow hot and cold, but as far as football goes, it seems to be true.
That said, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful of an extended run this time around. After a disastrous off an on field tournament in Ukraine, all of those who started or participated in dissent have been removed from their squad apart from Patrice Evra, their one weak link through the side after a poor season for Manchester United.
However France have far more strength than weakness running through their side. A lack of potency upfront was a big problem in previous tournaments but Karim Benzema has finally reached his full potential for Real Madrid, scoring 17 La Liga goals in 35 games, and his record for the National side is now a healthier looking 19 goals even if he’s had the 65 caps for his side already. Oliver Giroud ended the season badly for Arsenal but has improved for the national side recently while the pace that Loic Remy offers can be useful later in games.
Outside to the right, he has Mathieu Vaulbena of Marsellie to provide him with the quality delivery he showed during the last league season in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League, providing a threat to Arsenal, Dortmund and Napoli in a group where Napoli where generally overmatched.
On the left, there is a worrying absence of many for the world class pairing of Samir Nasri – who had done little for the national side despite being hugely impressive for Manchester City – and Franck Ribery, who is out with injury. Ribery is probably the bigger blow of the two but it’s not like the side doesn’t have the power to compensate. Antoine Greizmann was hugely impressive for Socidedad during the last la Liga season with 16 goals and can make a fine wide option.
It’s possibly in midfield where France boast the most depth. The decision taken by Deschamps to move Paul Pogba to a wide right role and give him more freedom than previously probably is the main reason they’re here and for Juventus this season he was even better and looks to be a rare talent in midfield. Blaise Matudi has been a breakthrough late bloomer for PSG this season, looking very impressive in the Champions League as well as on domestic soil, and with both capable of pushing forward France have a far greater forward moving threat than 2 or 4 years ago. Yohan Cabaye may not be on that level but at least has had 15 games in partnership with his fellow midfielder.
Defence is also very strong with Hugo Lloris coming off a fine season for Tottenham, and covered infront of him by the massively promising Raphael Varane and Arsenal’s Laurent Koscieleny. the three make for a strong rearguard. Matieu Debuchy may look a little out of place but is not as much of a rick as Patrice Evra, and this is a well balanced side that should have realistic hopes of going deep into the tournament.