Well Ladies and Gentlemen, in 33 days, the World will stop. The World will stop and turn on their TVs to watch 32 compete to win the most coveted cup in futbol history: The World Cup. This gold cup, with a person holding the world, is the most cherished award for a national team. Favorites have already been decided and underdogs will rise. In this 32 day tour, I will be covering each and every team, going group by group analyzing each and every team and their chances. I will predict how far they'll travel in this gauntlet of National teams, tell of their star players, and show weaknesses. The day before the tournament, I will run through each and every match picking winners. In the end, one will win, one will hoist the cup, and one country has bragging rights for the next four years. With that being said, here we go.....
Parlez-vous français? We start with Group A and the French National Team, who currently rank 10th in the world. This team has had quite the history, producing players such as Thierry Henry and most notably Zinedine Zidane. Unfortunately, France doesn't have a good image in the footballing world right now with the sex scandals of Florent Malouda, Franck Ribery, and Karim Benzema. In addition, the last World Cup, where they were runner ups, Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materatzi in the chest, becoming an amazing Youtube hit with many spoofs. However, the French still have a high caliber squad with many experienced stars and up-and-coming ones to add.
Starting at keeper, they will either go with Hugo Lloris or Steve Mandanda, two good keepers that can hold their own against the best in the French League. Their defense will most likely be made up of Patrice Evra, left back from Manchester United, William Gallas(Arsenal) and Sebastian Squillaci(Sevilla), two club experienced centre backs, and Bacary Sagna, right back from Arsenal.
Their midfield can be composed into many different formations with players such as: Lassana Diarra(Real Madrid), Jeremy Toulalan (OL), Yoann Gourcuff (Girodins de Bordeaux), Florent Malouda(Chelsea..gag...), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), and Alou Diarra(Girodins de Bordeaux). This compilation of players can be manipulated into many different formations like 2 defensive mids with the Diarras or just one combined with Toulalan. They can play with wingers such as Ribery and Malouda.
It all depends what Raymond Domenech, the National Manager, to decide on the formation. For he has quite the strikeforce to work with. Nicolas Anelka(Chelsea...gag again) and Thierry Henry (Barcelona...Arsenal legend) lead the pack with a significant amount of International Caps, or appearances. Andre-Pierre Gignac(Toulouse) and Karim Benzema(Real Madrid) are the up and coming stars that are going to fill the shoes of these two experienced strikers.
This French team is strong. Outisde of their goalkeeper, they have great players at each position, with some having stars at said positions. Their team is composed of the finest club players spreading over three leagues, the English Premier, La Liga, and French Ligue I. Not only are some of these players club stars, they're international ones as well. They have well over 20 Caps and have been playing international football for a while now. Plus, some of these players are returning from the 06' World Cup looking for revenge.
Age. Most of the stars are past their prime and entering a period of decline. The young guns are 'too young' and haven't been able to hone their international footballing skills as the French nation would like. Age may not be the biggest weakness though. Discipline and formation are still in question. Three French players, three GREAT French players, may not take the trip to South Africa because of a sex scandal. Thierry Henry, sadly, pushed the French team through with a handball against Ireland. And the formation is not there. There is no proper formation for the players to get aligned with. Yes, they might have a keeper and a defense, but that's it. Without a proper formation, discipline, and aging stars, can France make it to the Final?
Where France sits right now, they have, what most would call, an easy trip through. Their group isn't too difficult, containing Mexico, Uruguay, and South Africa. I see them winning the group, but barely though, skinning out Mexico. They would then move onto playing the runner-up of Group B, which would be Greece in my scenario. Moving on, they'd play the winner of the Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up match, which I have the United States moving on from there. I see France moving on in that match, maybe on penalties. They'd hit the road block and the final match in their tournament against the number one team in the World right now: Brazil. I have France in the semi-finals but losing there.
Tune in Tomorrow as I cover Mexico, the next country!