World Cup 2006: France qualifies

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
October 13th, 2005 • 9:52 am

It was a lengthy and painful process, but the French national team has finally managed to qualify for the upcoming 2006 Word Cup in Germany. They even managed to avoid the play-offs, which they would have had to go through if they had finished second of their group.

France might have managed to qualify without the return of Zidane (and Makelele and Thuram) earlier this year, but there is no doubt that the return of these players provided a much needed boost. In spite of reports that personal relations between these “senior” members of the squad and the France manager Raymond Domenech are strained, the commitment was there on the pitch when it was really needed, and most important, the statistics for the French team are much better than they were earlier in the qualifying process. Instead of goal-less draws, we now have victories and goals.

Still, it is going to be hard to be overly optimistic about the chances of this national team in the actual World Cup competition next year. There are still significant problems in most areas, and there’s little sense that Domenech is any closer to finding the “winning formula.” He has had to deal with injuries, suspensions, an ever evolving squad, strong individual personalities, and he doesn’t seem to have fully asserted his authority just yet.

There is no doubt that France has the talent to achieve something next year. But that was true in 2002 and 2004 as well, and we all know what happened. On the other hand, the national team didn’t have to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, and they cruised through the qualifying round for Euro 2004 (8 games, 8 victories, if I remember correctly), and that didn’t translate into outstanding form in the tournament itself. Maybe this time a much more laborious qualifying process will lead to better results?

The World Cup 2006 favourites will obviously be Brazil again, and Germany will have the significant advantage of playing at home. It’s hard to imagine those two not getting to the semi-finals next year. But who will be the other two teams? I would say that, at this stage, all bets are off.

If he is maintained as French manager (and he probably will, since he’s fulfilled his mandate, which was to qualify the team), then Domenech will have a lot of work to do between now and next June. There will probably be only a handful of friendly games, and many of his key players will be involved in many important domestic and European games with their clubs.

I just hope that Silvestre has a few nightmarish moments with his club Manchester United during the season, so that it doesn’t even cross Domenech’s mind to recall him to the French national team. Silvestre was an unmitigated disaster in Euro 2004, and we can’t afford to have a single defender sinking the entire team again. I don’t think that Boumsong is a particularly convincing choice at this point in central defense, but at least he has not committed any truly horrible blunders yet.

Now, it’s back to club competition this week-end and, with injuries for Cole, Campbell, and Henry, the Gunners are not having the best time at the moment. But of course, this will matter little if Chelsea doesn’t start dropping points soon…

2 Responses to “World Cup 2006: France qualifies”

  1. Olivier says:

    Their tie against Switzerland is quite humiliating ;-)

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    They had more than their share of rather humiliating moments in this qualifying process—although by the sound of it, Switzerland fully deserved their draw last week. (I didn’t see that game.) Humility is a good thing, which the generation of World Cup 98 and Euro 2000 winners lacked for a while. Hopefully they have now come down to earth and will fight to reestablish their authority.

    One should remember that the eventual World Cup winners of 2002 (Brazil) only qualified for that competition after a few rather embarrassing results in South America too…

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