Mini football figure - France
Miniature football player with kit of the national team of France.
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The French men's national football team, often called Les Bleus (after the traditional blue jerseys) or Équipe Tricolore (after the flag of France) in German-language media, is one of the most successful national football teams. Due to its personnel composition, the neologism "black-blanc-beur" ("blacks, whites, Maghrebians") also developed from 1998 onwards in punning reference to the colours of the country's flag (bleu-blanc-rouge).
France have so far won two World Cups (1998, 2018) and two European titles (1984, 2000), as well as the Confederations Cup twice (2001, 2003). In 2021, the UEFA Nations League title was added. The national team is the only one, along with the Brazilian Seleção, to have entered for all previous World Cups. However, unlike Brazil, the Bleus have failed several times in World Cup qualifying tournaments or opted not to participate in the finals (for example in 1950). France also hosted continental tournament finals early on, namely the third World Cup in 1938 and the first European Championship in 1960.
Its official international match history began in 1904; however, international matches had been organised by the Union des sociétés françaises de sports athlétiques (USFSA), the national football association with the largest membership until the First World War, since the turn of the century. The USFSA represented the country until 1908 in the world association FIFA, which it co-founded; from 1909, the umbrella organisation of the competing associations, the Comité Français Interfédéral, replaced it there. With the unification of all French football organisations in 1919, the Fédération Française de Football (FFF, officially Fédération Française de Football Association or FFFA until around 1940) took over its role.
The FFF currently counts 890 official senior internationals against 89 opponents from all FIFA continental associations.
The "glorious four" 1976 to 1986
When Michel Hidalgo, who had been part of the "golden generation" as a player, took over the reins in 1976, the measures for systematic talent scouting and youth development, which had been implemented nationwide since 1970 by Georges Boulogne in particular, slowly began to have a positive effect and found a place in the education and training centre in Clairefontaine (Centre technique national Fernand-Sastre), which was opened in 1988 and has been used regularly by the national team ever since. This sporting development was mirrored in club football by the growing importance of AS Saint-Étienne at European level. Under Hidalgo and his successor Henri Michel (1984-1988), the Équipe Tricolore not only regularly qualified for major international tournaments again, but even finished three of these four finals in top positions. Because of the four participations, this period is also known as "The Glorious Four" (French: les quatre glorieuses).
In their first World Cup appearance in twelve years, the finals in Argentina, the Bleus had to go home after the group matches and also missed the 1980 European Championship finals. But after that, the "Platini Gang" (la bande à Platini), named after their leading figure, reached the World Cup semi-finals in Spain in 1982 and in Mexico in 1986. In each case they met their German rivals, against whom they lost both times; but their performance in Seville (3:3 n. V., 4:5 in a penalty shoot-out) in particular left a lasting impression. Four years later, they finished third in the tournament, as in 1958, after victories over Italy and Brazil, among others. At the 1984 European Championship on home soil, the team won its first ever title, winning all five matches (against Denmark, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Portugal and Spain). The "magic midfield quadrangle" with Michel Platini, in outstanding form as a director and nine-time goal scorer, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernández formed the core of an evolved formation. Around them were goalkeeper Joël Bats, defenders Patrick Battiston, Maxime Bossis, Jean-François Domergue, Yvon Le Roux, strikers Bernard Lacombe, Bruno Bellone and Didier Six, with Manuel Amoros, Daniel Bravo, Jean-Marc Ferreri, Bernard Genghini, Thierry Tusseau, Dominique Rocheteau as substitutes, and goalkeepers Philippe Bergeroo and Albert Rust, who were the only players not to play a minute. In 1985, France won the inaugural Intercontinental Cup for national teams (Artemio Franchi Cup) by beating reigning Copa América champions Uruguay 2-0.
Under Hidalgo and Michel, the senior eleven remained victorious 58 times, drew 27 times and also lost only 27 games. The two years following the 1982 World Cup were particularly successful, when the French recorded twelve wins, four draws and only two defeats - against Poland in August 1982 and Denmark in September 1983. Hidalgo was also the first French national coach to make a dark-skinned player captain of the team, namely Marius Trésor in October 1976.
The long road to the top of the world
After the core of this team had finished their careers, a lean period followed, during which qualification for the 1988 European Championships and the 1990 and 1994 World Championships failed. At the 1992 European Championship, France was eliminated at an early stage.
It wasn't until the 1996 European Championship that the Équipe Tricolore advanced far in a tournament again, beating Spain, Bulgaria, Romania and the Netherlands, but missing out on a place in the final against the Czechs. Nevertheless, coach Aimé Jacquet had already put together the team with which he would win the World Cup two years later. The 1990s also saw the start of a development that contributed to the increase in performance: More and more national players were signed by clubs in the stronger divisions of neighbouring countries, initially mainly in the Italian league, but later also in the English and then the Spanish league. Regular players from the other side of the Rhine, on the other hand, have only rarely been attracted to the Bundesliga; Bixente Lizarazu was one of the first in 1997.
At the 1998 World Cup in their own country, the Bleus marched through their preliminary group with aplomb, then beat Paraguay, Italy and Croatia with a little more effort before beating the favoured Brazilian team in the final 3-0. The cornerstones of the team were goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, defender and team captain Laurent Blanc and the outstanding director Zinédine Zidane, a worthy successor to Raymond Kopa and Michel Platini. Together with Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram, Bixente Lizarazu, Youri Djorkaeff, Didier Deschamps, Emmanuel Petit, Alain Boghossian, Christian Karembeu, Stéphane Guivarc'h, Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and the supplementary players Frank Lebœuf, Vincent Candela, Bernard Diomède, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and Christophe Dugarry, they formed a team that was insurmountable in those weeks. As in the 1984 European Championship title, only the second and third goalkeepers (Lionel Charbonnier, Bernard Lama) did not make a single appearance. In the run-up to this tournament, an official national team fan club was founded with the support of the FFF; on the other hand, the well-known battle cry "Allez, les Bleus!" ("On, you Blues!") is much older.
France confirmed their success two years later at the European Championship in the Netherlands and Belgium, when they defeated Italy 2-1 in the final with a golden goal and became the first reigning world champions to win the European Championship. At the 2002 World Cup, however, they were eliminated in the preliminary round without scoring a goal of their own. The 2004 European Championship ended for the Équipe Tricolore in the quarter-finals, where they lost 1-0 to the eventual tournament winners Greece. However, they did win the Confederations Cup in 2001 and 2003. The composition of the Bleus - with a rapidly increasing proportion of second- and third-generation immigrants and players born outside mainland France - prompted political "right-winger" Jean-Marie Le Pen to rant in 2006 that the French people could no longer recognise themselves in this team.
The overall balance of the years from 1988 to the summer of 2004 (when national coach Raymond Domenech took office) was unreservedly positive: 113 victories contrasted with only 22 lost matches and 40 draws. In May 2004, a friendly match against Brazil - the two teams that were ranked first and second in the world at the time - ended in a 0-0 draw at the Stade de France. The occasion was the 100th birthday of the world football association FIFA; at the same time, it also took place almost to the day on the 100th anniversary of the Bleus' first official international match. During this period, the Bleus were also successful three times in minor cup competitions: they won the Kirin Cup in 1994 and the Moroccan King's Cup in 1998 and 2000.
France did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup until the last matchday. There, however, they again reached the final, where they met Italy, who this time won on penalties, as they did at the 2000 European Championship. With the World Cup runners-up title and the discord at the end of Zinédine Zidane's national team career - sending off after a headbutt against Marco Materazzi - the most successful period in the national team's history to date, in which the Équipe Tricolore even topped the international rankings from May 2001 to May 2002 and was second again in September 2006, had come to an end.
Sinking into mediocrity and winning the second star (2006-2018)
The sporting development of the national team has been assessed by France Football, for example, at the latest since 2004 as a phase of "chronic instability", in which even the 2006 World Cup runner-up title was merely a positive exception. Although the French qualified for the 2008 European Championship finals, they were eliminated in the preliminary round. Participation in the 2010 World Cup was also secured, but they first had to play the elimination matches of the European group runners-up, in which a late, irregular goal against Ireland opened the way to South Africa for them - France's equaliser in the second leg was preceded by a clear handball, admitted by Thierry Henry after the match and heavily criticised even in the French press. At the 2010 finals, France were once again eliminated in the group stage against Uruguay, Mexico and the hosts South Africa, finishing bottom of the table and plummeting from ninth to 21st in the FIFA World Ranking as of mid-July.
Given the results, and in particular the performances, of the previous two years, the French pundits had not been overly optimistic about the outcome of the tournament in the run-up to the World Cup, and the blame was laid squarely at the door of coach Domenech, whose premature replacement was repeatedly considered in the twelve months leading up to the finals. Yet his coaching record does not read badly: up to the World Cup finals, the Bleus won 41 matches, drew 23 and lost only twelve. For parts of the media and several renowned coaching colleagues in France, the main problem was that he was not able to form a homogeneous team out of good individual players in which they could optimally bring out their respective individual strengths, as well as too frequent changes in the details of the French game concept. In July 2010, after the Knysna fiasco, Domenech, who was permanently employed by the FFF, handed over responsibility for the senior eleven. His successor Laurent Blanc received a fixed salary of €100,000 per month from the FFF.
Blanc's first season was a positive one, with eight wins, two draws and - in the opening two games - two defeats, because France recorded victories against Brazil and in England and subsequently qualified directly for the European Championship finals. In mid-June 2012, the Bleus increased their unbroken run of games without defeat there to 23 (between 7 September 2010 and 15 June 2012); the French only managed an even longer streak under Aimé Jacquet (30 internationals without defeat, 16 February 1994 to 9 October 1996). Nevertheless, Blanc did not subsequently renew his contract. At the beginning of July 2012, the FFF appointed Didier Deschamps as his successor, who wanted to build a new team. To do so, he had used a total of 39 players in his first season, which ended with a negative record (four wins, two draws and five defeats). For the editors of France Football, his first year was not yet suitable for assessing the situation ("These eleven games do not yet reveal any progress on the Bleus' current construction sites"). With five defeats in eleven games - including the first defeat against Germany since 1987 - Deschamps had the worst record of a French national coach in his debut season in more than half a century.
In November 2013, the French managed to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil in the play-offs, but the central problem of the national team since 2006 seemed to persist. Potential "leaders" such as Ribéry, Evra, Abidal or Lloris, who could be expected to "pass on their experience to the younger players, actively guide them to develop in the game and reach a higher level, ... who sometimes take a problem of the collective into their own hands or address the coach on tactical questions of their own accord", are "more interested in their own statistics than in the team's performance" (Laurent Blanc). A Ligue 1 coach puts it more bluntly: "The intellectual abilities of the team do not keep pace with its technical level. In 2014, however, the successes of Deschamps' work became visible; the team presented itself with a respectable game, had reached the World Cup quarter-finals and was consequently listed by FIFA as one of the eight best teams in the world again. In February 2015, the FFF prematurely extended Deschamps' contract by a further two years until 2018; this was followed by what was, however, only a short-lived slump (in July 2015, another drop to 22nd place in the world rankings), because in the summer of 2016, the French were runners-up in the European Championships. On the way there, the Stade de France, where the Bleus were playing a friendly against Germany, was also affected by the violent attacks that shook Paris almost simultaneously at several locations on 13 November 2015. However, there were no victims in the stadium itself.
The qualifying groups for the 2018 World Cup had already been drawn in the summer of 2015, and France did not draw an easy lot. Starting in September 2016, France had to face the Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg in European Group A. The draw was not easy. In September 2016, France won a preparatory match in Italy 3-1, and the success in Bari extends the streak that the French have not lost in Italy against the host nation since 1962 (three wins and two draws).
The 2017/18 season began with the last four World Cup qualifiers, of which France had home advantage three times - including against the Dutch - but at the same time found themselves in a "long-distance duel" for group victory with Sweden, where every goal could count to avoid still having to qualify via the play-offs as they had last done in 2010 with their narrow exit against Ireland. In the end, despite a very poor performance against Luxembourg, France finished four points clear of Sweden and the Netherlands to win their group and be confirmed as World Cup participants in Russia. Coach Deschamps' team entered the preparation phase for this tournament with friendly matches against Wales and in Germany in mid-November 2017.
In the first five games of the season, Deschamps again proved to be very "experimental", fielding 27 players. On the other hand, Hugo Lloris, only the seventh Frenchman, was included in the so-called "hundred club" during the 2018 World Cup preliminary round.
The World Cup finals were successful, but tough and lacklustre. In the second group game, the coach had already fielded the starting eleven that would enable the Bleus to march through to the knockout round and win the title; in the third preliminary round game against the Danes, however, Deschamps gave several other players time in action because the Bleus only needed a draw to win the group. A key factor in their success at the tournament was an extremely strong central defensive line consisting of goalkeeper Lloris, centre-backs Umtiti and Varane, and 'clearer' Kanté in front, which ensured that opposing teams could only muster 13 shots directly on target up to and including the quarter-finals. But the improved performance of Griezmann and Pogba, as well as the sacrificial work of striker Giroud, who did not avoid any duel in his own half of the pitch, the two 22-year-old wing-backs Hernández and Pavard, the speed and wit of Mbappé and the flexibility of the experienced Matuidi were also plus points that the last two French opponents in the preliminary round and the final had too little to offer. The coach had by no means set up the starting line-up identically for each opponent, but had reacted very individually to the expected tasks, both in the depth positioning of the trio Varane-Umtiti-Kanté and with regard to the different positions taken up by the offensive forces. Ultimately, there were four systems in which the French operated in these seven World Cup matches: 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1.
As a result of winning a second "FIFA star", France moved back to the top of the world rankings after just over a decade and a half.
Les Bleus as of 2018
On the one hand, the low average age of the French world champions provided good conditions for them to continue to play at the top of the concert of the greats in the years to come. On the other hand, not only the examples of the three predecessors Italy (title holders in 2006), Spain (2010) and Germany (2014) show that the role of the "hunted" is a difficult one. The increasing density of the international schedule for club and national teams - UEFA has introduced another compulsory competition, the Nations League, directly after the 2018 summer break - could also further increase the pressure of expectation and strain on the French.
In the autumn of 2018, the French faced the Netherlands and Germany twice each in the first staging of the UEFA Nations League. These three formed one of four groups in Europe's top league (Division A), from which only the group winners qualify for the final tournament ("Final Four") in June 2019. For the first two games, coach Deschamps fielded exactly the same players as in Russia - with the exception of the injured goalkeeper Mandanda, but including the already retired Adil Rami. The Bleus finished level on points with the Dutch in their group, but had the worse goal difference and thus did not qualify for the last four.
Qualification for the European Championship, which was originally planned for 2020, began in the spring of 2019 but was then postponed by UEFA for a year due to the COVID 19 pandemic. As the head of Group H, the world champions had to deal with Iceland, Turkey, Albania, Moldova - against whom France has never played - and neighbour Andorra.
The 2020/21 season
After an almost ten-month international break due to the pandemic, which also affected the European Championship, which was postponed by a year to 2021, the Bleus entered the Nations League for the second time in September 2020 without much preparation, where they beat European champions Portugal in their group and qualified for the final round, which was not held until October 2021 in Italy.
The European elimination for the 2022 World Cup already began in spring 2021. In Group D, the world number two will face Ukraine (24th), Finland (54th), Bosnia-Herzegovina (55th) and Kazakhstan (122nd).
The 2021/22 season
The season got off to a poor start for France, with only two draws against two less-than-stellar opponents (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ukraine) and the subsequent win over the Finns not a convincing performance from the reigning world champions. A month later, the Bleus showed their better side and won a dramatic UEFA Nations League semi-final against Belgium 3-2 after trailing 2-0 at the break. They also managed to turn around a deficit in the final against Spain to secure the title.
The French will have to defend this title from the summer of 2022, when they first face Denmark, Croatia and promoted Austria in the third round of the Nations League Group A1. Four of these matches took place - within ten days - in June, the remaining two in the second half of September. In preparation, the association had arranged two friendly matches against Côte d'Ivoire and South Africa's Bafana bafana, for which the coach included and fielded three potential debutants in Jonathan Clauss, Christopher Nkunku and William Saliba in his 23-man squad. He also made an additional call-up following Karim Benzema's absence through injury, Olivier Giroud, who immediately scored two goals after a lengthy absence but was not nominated for the four June matches. In those encounters, the Bleus performed unusually badly (two home defeats, two draws away from home) and are even fighting relegation after the summer break. This was the third worst series under Deschamps' aegis; only in 2013 (three defeats and two draws in a row) and 2021 (five draws in a row) had the French record been more unsuccessful.
- 61 mm
- 40 gramms