France may still be considered as one of Europe’s heavyweights, but there is little expectation among neutral football followers when it comes to the 2014 World Cup finals.
The French had a largely underwhelming qualifying campaign and sneaked into the finals only via a playoff. In fact, Les Bleus actually lost the first leg to Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev, but staged a brilliant comeback at home to win the second leg 3-0.
Four years ago in South Africa, France were involved in a bitter in-fighting. Striker Nicolas Anelka was involved in a bust-up with then coach Raymond Domenech and was sent home from the World Cup. There was a strike, players were suspended and the team failed to progress beyond the group stage, as French football hit a new low.
It was a far cry from 1998 and 2000 when France won the World Cup and the European Championship respectively. However, the European nation have put the past four years behind them and reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 under Laurent Blanc. Didier Deschamps took over in July 2012 and although results or performances have not been as per expectations, there is still hope of a better future.
Olivier Giroud has been in the France national team set-up only since 2011 so he has fortunately missed the bad publicity from four years ago. The Arsenal striker, who has had a mixed two years in the Premier League, believes that he and his compatriots are now ready to move forward and upward.
‘I am looking forward to the World Cup a lot’, the 27-year-old told Arsenal’s official website. ‘It will be amazing in Brazil and a really good opportunity for France to bounce back. We had a big disappointment at the last one but it is part of the past. Now we have a really good squad so we have a good chance’.
‘We had bad memories from the World Cup and the last Euros, but they are behind us and 1998 is the past - you have to look forward’, added the former Montpellier star. ‘We have the support of the French people, so that is a good thing for us’.
Things could not have gone worse for France, as it was confirmed on Friday that talisman and star winger Franck Ribery will miss the World Cup due to injury. The 31-year-old was their big hope and his absence will certainly be felt.
But then again, eight years ago in Germany, France were not among the favourites. Yet, they reached the final and lost it only on penalties to Italy. Could something similar happen in Brazil? Let’s wait and watch.