If you’re an Irish supporter, it might hurt to read this section. France got to the World Cup tournament by beating Ireland in a qualifier, thanks to a handball pass in the 104th minute. But the team from France, World Cup runners up in 2006, might be ready to redeem themselves.
Team: Les Bleus
Colors: Blue, white and red
The French National Team struggled to find a way into the tournament, getting a helping hand in the final ticks of their game against Ireland. Nevertheless, this team has more than enough talent to march back to the finals, making doubters eat their words along the way.
Les Bleus hit a rough patch during the qualifying rounds; however, based on how their starting 11 have been performing this year, France should find an easy way through the group stage, scoring a lot of goals without any hands.
Yet the French have been known to disappoint following previous successes. After winning the Cup in ’98, they posted the worst record for a defending champ, gaining not a single point. Bad karma? We don’t know, but soccer fans will soon find out which French team will show up in South Africa—Les Bleus or Les Chumps.
Key Players: Nicolas Anelka, Frank Ribéry and Thierry Henry
Les Bleus are loaded with top-tier talent from the biggest clubs in the world, and these three star players can change the outcome of a match in the blink of an eye.
Striker Nicolas Anelka has been playing the best football of his career this year for Chelsea. He’ll be teamed up with FIFA ’09 Player of the Year nominee Thierry Henry, who has proven to the world that soccer players, like wine, get better with age. Although he’s most recently recognized for the handball that helped France advance to South Africa, let’s not forget that he has scored more than 50 goals in 118 appearances for his national team.
Midfielder Frank Ribéry is a playmaker who can cut through defenders like a hot knife through butter. His creativity and skill with the ball are equal to any other big name player in the world. Ribéry is a player to watch when the French are advancing.
Key Matchup: France vs. Mexico
France should get past Uruguay in their first match. So if they want to make a statement in the group stage, it will have to come against their toughest opponent, Mexico. Both squads are loaded with offensive talent, so look for some early goals until the defenses get established. This game will reveal which French team decides to show up.
Prediction: A difficult pick. Les Bleus have the talent to make it to the semis if they bring their A Game. However, if karma is real, they may not even make it out of the group. My guess: a quick exit from the tournament after the group stage.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown