|Major Honours||World Cup (2) European Championships (2), Confederations Cup (2)|
France, commonly known as Les Bleus, are one of the most successful teams in world soccer , having won the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and 2018 and the European Championships in 1984 and 2000.
The origins of Les Bleus
France played their first official international in a 3-3 draw with Belgium in May 1904 and both were among the founding members of FIFA that same month.
France were eliminated in the group stage of the 1930 World Cup, the first ever edition of the tournament. However, Lucien Laurent went into the history books for scoring the first ever World Cup goal in France's 4-1 win over Mexico.
Les Bleus were eliminated in the first round of the 1934 World Cup. In 1938, they made the quarter-finals as hosts, losing 3-1 to Italy.
France in the 1950s
The 1950s saw the emergence of a new generation of French players, with iconic Moroccan-born striker Just Fontaine leading the line with distinction.
France withdrew from the 1950 World Cup and exited at the group stage in 1954, but they fared significantly better in 1958, finishing third in Sweden.
They lost to Brazil in the semi-finals, but beat West Germany in the third-place play-off. Fontaine scored four goals in a 6-3 victory, taking his tournament tally to 13 goals - a record which still stands to date.
After finishing fourth at the 1960 European Championships, France fell into a slump, failing to qualify for the 1962 World Cup or 1964 European Championships.
Although France qualified for the 1966 World Cup, they were eliminated in the group stage, subsequently failing to qualify in 1970 or 1974. Les Bleus failed to qualify for the 1968, 1972, 1976 or 1980 European Championships. In 1978, they once again suffered a group-stage exit at the World Cup.
World Cup podiums and Les Bleus' first European Championships trophy
A golden generation of French players emerged in the 1980s with Michel Platini being the star of the show. Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez helped Platini in creating the 'carre magique' (Magic Square) partnership which proved so fruitful at the 1982 World Cup. Despite the quartet, France lost to West Germany on penalties in the semi-finals.
In 1984, France won the European Championships under the guidance of long-serving manager Michel Hidalgo. Platini and Bruno Bellone scored in a 2-0 final victory over Spain. Top scorer Platini's goal was his ninth of the tournament.
Hidalgo was replaced by Henri Michel after the Euros but France remained a competitive force. They won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics and beat Uruguay 2-0 to win the Artemio Franchi trophy, a precursor to the FIFA Confederations Cup.
In 1986, France were favourites to win their first FIFA World Cup prize, but they lost to West Germany in the semi-finals and had to settle for third place after a 4-2 victory over Belgium.
France failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup under the guidance of Platini, who had taken over as manager. He led them to Euro 1992, but despite a solid run of form heading into the tournament, they were eliminated in the group stage and Platini departed, paving the way for Gerard Houllier to take charge.
Houllier led France to the brink of qualification for the 1994 World Cup, but they missed out due to nightmare defeats to Israel and Bulgaria. Houllier's assistant, Aime Jacquet, was promoted and took over as manager.
Les Bleus' golden years
Jacquet led France to the semi-finals of the 1996 European Championships, but they were beaten 6-5 on penalties by the Czech Republic.
In 1998, on home soil, a France team inspired by Zinedine Zidane, Emmanuel Petit and Marcel Desailly stormed into the World Cup final on home soil, where they met world champions Brazil, whose main star at the time was Ronaldo.
On their way to a historic first World Cup victory, Les Bleus disposed of Denmark, South Africa and Saudi Arabia in the group stages, before edging past Paraguay in the round of 16 in extra time. They then held their nerve to defeat Italy 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw in the quarter-finals.
Brazil were hindered by the fact that star striker Ronaldo was ill before the game but ended up playing regardless. He was unimpressive as France triumphed 3-0 at the Stade de France thanks to a breathtaking display from Zidane.
They followed that up with a triumph at Euro 2000 in Belgium and Holland under coach Roger Lemerre, who took over from Jacquet following the World Cup.
Finishing runners-up in Group D to co-hosts Netherlands after a 3-2 defeat, Les Bleus edged two close encounters with Spain and Portugal 2-1, winning the latter via the golden goal rule in extra time.
Awaiting France in the final were age-old rivals Italy who had enjoyed a successful tournament having put six past Yugoslavia before eliminating co-hosts Netherlands in the semi-finals, 3-1 on penalties.
After a nervy final, David Trezeguet scored the golden goal to seal a 2-1 extra-time victory and back-to-back major international tournaments for Les Bleus.
France won the 2001 Confederations Cup, but were eliminated in the group stage of the 2002 World Cup, famously losing their first match 1-0 to debutants Senegal.
France were eliminated by eventual champions Greece in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004.
Defeats in finals
Under Raymond Domenech, France recovered from a slow start to the 2006 World Cup in Germany to make the final. Along the way, they eliminated world champions Brazil 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
However, France lost to Italy on penalties in the final in a match infamous for Zidane's headbutt on Marco Materazzi. The France icon was red-carded in his last ever match as a player.
France were eliminated from a strong Euro 2008 group which included the Netherlands and Italy. They qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa thanks to a controversial play-off victory over the Republic of Ireland - a clear handball from Thierry Henry in the build-up to William Gallas' winning goal was missed by the referee.
France's World Cup campaign was marred by player protests following Domenech's spat with striker Nicolas Anelka, which resulted in the Chelsea player being sent home. They finished bottom of a group containing Uruguay, Mexico and South Africa.
Domenech was replaced by Laurent Blanc, who led France to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, where they lost to eventual champions Spain.
Blanc subsequently resigned and was replaced by Didier Deschamps, who steered France to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. Again, they were beaten by the eventual champions - Germany on this occasion.
Deschamps' France made the final of Euro 2016 on home soil and would have fancied their chances of victory, but they were beaten 1-0 in the final by Portugal thanks to an Eder goal in extra time.
Winning the 2018 World Cup
In 2018, France ended their wait for another World Cup trophy when they triumphed in Russia - their first tournament victory since their 1998 success on home soil.
Deschamps has never been shy to upset big-name players and star striker Karim Benzema was a notable absentee from his World Cup squad. Olivier Giroud led the line for Les Bleus with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris captaining the side.
In a seven-goal thriller that saw two goal-of-the-tournament contenders from Benjamin Pavard and Angel Di Maria respectively, Les Bleus held on to a 4-3 victory to advance to the quarter-finals.
Uruguay posed no real match for Deschamps' side in the quarters, with Luis Suarez and co beaten by goals from Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann.
France saw off Belgium in the semi-finals before beating Croatia 4-2 in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
A Mario Mandzukic own goal, Griezmann penalty and further strikes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, who at the time was only 19 years old, secured the victory. Griezmann picked up the man-of-the-match prize.
Mbappe became only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final after the great Pele, deservedly winning the Young Player of the Tournament award.
Mbappe also had a memorable Euro 2020 but for altogether different reasons, missing the vital penalty as France bowed out in a shootout at the hands of Switzerland.
France had been pegged back from 3-1 up in the latter stages of normal time in the last-16 clash.
Nations League success
France quickly put their Euro 2020 disappointment behind them just months later when the UEFA Nations League offered them another chance at silverware.
After winning group A3, France were drawn against Belgium in the semi-final. After trailing 2-0 at half-time, Les Bleus fought back in the second half through Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe before Theo Hernandez' last-gasp winner sent them through to the final.
In the final, France were pitted against Spain who had recently broke Italy's record-breaking unbeaten run in the semi-finals. Again France went behind, but responded quickly through Benzema before Mbappe scored again to claim the trophy.
The 2-1 win made France just the second ever champions of the Nations League after Portugal's win back in 2018/19.
Thierry Henry is France's all-time record goalscorer, having netted 51 times for Les Bleus in 123 appearances between 1997 and 2010. Henry played for the likes of AS Monaco, Juventus and Barcelona, but his best club soccer was played at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger.
France's all-time record appearance-maker, Lilian Thuram, is another player who excelled largely thanks to the influence of Wenger in his career. After his spell at Monaco, Thuram went on to play for Parma, Juventus and Barcelona.
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris currently holds the record for most games played as France captain, and will go down as one of the country's most successful skippers of all time.
Fabian Barthez is another No.1 who has also etched his name into France's history books, having amassed the most World Cup appearances for his country.
Legendary France striker Just Fontaine holds the astonishing record of scoring the most goals in a single World Cup campaign, returning 13 in six at the 1958 tournament.
France have a strong rivalry with Italy, having competed against them in several important matches. This rivalry was only heightened by Zidane's infamous headbutt on Materazzi, allegedly after being provoked with a personal insult related to a family member.
Les Bleus also have a rivalry with Germany, who as West Germany stood between their golden 1980s team and major honours.
France are known for often utilising the services of players of African descent in their national team, dating back as far as the 1930s. Many African supporters showed solidarity with the French national team during the 2018 World Cup as a result.
- Oct 11, 2021
- Oct 09, 2021