The glory days of the French national team at the turn of the century ended with a thud, as Zidane slammed Materazzi with the headbutt heard around the world. That side earned glory as champions of the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euro Cup, dominating international football.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 fields the most talented French team since their Euro win. After conquering Group C and defeating Argentina, France’s odds to win the World Cup lifted to +400, according to CSB.ca.
Brazil and England may be considered favorites to meet in the World Cup 2018 Final, but France appears to accelerate into the knockout round with the greatest talent and upside of all teams remaining in the tournament.
Young French Superstars
The future of French football is now. This side also appears loaded for the next decade.
Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann already have worldwide recognition as top players in the EPL and La Liga. Lesser known stars will now emerge for France, revealed by the bright lights of the World Cup.
At the age of 19, Kylian Mbappe already features the type of poise reserved for mature strikers. He utilizes superb decision making to maximize his greatest weapon on pitch, a breakaway speed which few defenders match.
He isn’t tall and physical like the legendary Henri, but he shows a nose for the net and the ability to finish in a calm, collected manner – qualities displayed in his first World Cup goal:
Before lacing the cleats for the national team, Kylian was the youngest player in Monaco history to earn a spot on the first team, also becoming the youngest to score a Ligue 1 hat-trick in February 2017. Paris Saint-Germain was rumored to spend upwards of €180 million for his transfer, making him the second most expensive player since Neymar at the time.
Forward Ousmane Dembélé commands his own king’s ransom as a 21-year-old with Barcelona, including a €400 million buyout clause. Dembélé shot to stardom as a rookie in Bundesliga, leading Dortmund to their first big championship in half a decade by scoring clutch goals against Bayern and Eintracht Frankfurt. He earned man of the match, best rookie, and a spot on the Bundesliga team of the season.
Depending on your point of view, Dembélé could be a superior option to France’s experienced superstar forwards like Griezmann or Giroud. The luxury of playing some of the best young forwards on the globe will produce matchup problems against any side.
Fantastic Lineup Depth
A fantastic forward four of Griezmann, Mbappe, Dembélé and Giroud might be the deepest in the tournament. These men each have their own style of attack, which reduces the odds of a defensive strategy that keeps France off the scoreboard.
The strength of the French attack is bolstered by Paul Pogba in the midfield, one of the finest pitch generals in the sport. Despite Paul’s expectation that this World Cup will be his last, there’s a good chance that he’ll remain in his prime as a versatile midfielder with the French national side and Manchester United. Nabil Fékir may not command the same respect as Pogba, but he’s one of the best attacking midfielders remaining in the tourney.
The French defence, which has conceded a single goal in three group games, features strength that originates from net leadership. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is in the conversation for best keeper in the world, anchoring France as the captain of the club. He’s also the captain of Hotspur in the EPL, the third-best club behind the Manchester franchises.
Hugo’s leadership helped France deal with injuries on the backline, getting the most of backups like Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard. In spite of questions concerning France’s defense – logical after conceding three to Argentina – indications point to a side becoming more comfortable in their own territory.
France Will Rise Over Lofty Rivals
As usual, the host country received a favorable position in Group A, with Uruguay the only team obviously better than the Russians on paper. France landed well in Group C, building their World Cup run with victories over Peru and the Socceroos.
France, who previously lost two meetings against Argentina, outpaced Messi and company 4-3 during a track meet in the round of 16. The quarters might be a more difficult matchup, as Uruguay appears to have a more balanced lineup on paper, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani forming a formidable, two-prong attack.
The French have never defeated the Uruguayans in World Cup play, but hold a significant talent advantage along with a solid track record against South American clubs during this tournament.
Semi-finals will consist of a matchup against a superb Belgian side or the favorited Brazilians. Belgium’s defeated France once in six World Cup meetings, which makes them a slightly more favorable matchup.
As usual, Brazil leads the field in terms of raw talent, and they’ve implemented a solid defensive scheme during this competition. However, the French have earned a solid 2-1-1 record against Brazil in World Cup play.
The other side of the draw is wide open, with the English and Croatian team most likely to earn a spot in the finals. Unexpectedly, England is undefeated against France in World Cup play, but it’s tough to call the English favorites over France in 2018.
No World Cup Victory Is Without Challenge
Perhaps the most significant challenge facing France would be the integration of all their incredible talent. The most troubling example would be Antoine Griezmann, who appears out of sync with his fellow stars. Instead of attacking with his usual slick, aggressive style, Antoine appears unusually reserved and uninvolved.
Antoine was subbed three times in the group stage, but Giroud and Dembélé haven’t performed close to their world-class status either. As a whole, these forwards will need to figure out a way to consistently threaten elite defensive sides.
After finishing first in Group C and passing a tough quarterfinals test against Argentina, the path to a long World Cup tournament has opened for France. Questions about their backend and offensive cohesion remain valid, but most teams would love to grapple with issues managing the sheer talent that the French boast on paper.