France establish themselves as World Cup contenders

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France may have been held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Ecuador side on Wednesday evening, but their performances during the group stages of the World Cup have shown they are amongst the favourites for this summer’s championship.

Despite nearly missing out on participating in the tournament at all after battling past Ukraine, Didier Deschamps’ men have the squad depth and style of play to emulate the class of 1998 and lift the famous gold trophy.

A very strong squad

It is hard to identify a single weakness with the squad. Karim Benzema may have grabbed the headlines with three goals in his first three games, but there have been other notable performances from the likes of Paul Pogba, Mathieu Valbuena and Moussa Sissoko.

They opened with a comfortable victory over Honduras, before blitzing the dangerous Switzerland 5-2 in a performance reeking with attacking intent and potency.

France will meet Nigeria in the next round where they are expected to progress to yet another World Cup quarter-final. The progress between now and four years ago, where rebellion and rifts broke out, is startling.

Morale is high

This time around team morale looks perfectly intact, and despite Deschamps’ questionable decision to omit Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri from the squad in a move that raised many eyebrows back in France, he has not yet been left to rue that decision.

Barring a major upset, Germany could be the opponents if Nigeria are blasted away. In spite of the wealth of talent at their disposal, Joachim Lowe’s men showed in the 2-2 draw against Ghana that they are far from invincible.

Strength in depth

In Benzema they possess a striker of the highest order. Any move by his club Real Madrid to lure Luis Suarez could mean the Frenchman stay at the Santiago Bernabeu, scuppering interest shown by the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool.

Olivier Giroud is another asset they are fortunate to boast at their disposal. The Arsenal striker had criticism vented at him from all corners of the Emirates, but has improved his game drastically during his stint in north London and was amongst the scorers during the Swiss demolition job.

Valbuena’s stock has risen since his enchanting performances, and is a reported target for a number of clubs in both Serie A and the Premier League. Prising him away from his current club Marseille however could prove an unenviable task.

The class of 1998 is a high order to match. But if they keep playing such swashbuckling, entertaining football it could be their name on the trophy come July 13 at the Maracana.

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