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France (FRA)

Depth and confidence mark defending champions

If France can recapture the defensive solidity that won them the 1998 FIFA World Cup France™ and can break forward with the devastating fluidity that saw them lift the UEFA European Championship 2000 crown, then they will be a difficult side to beat come June in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.

While coach Roger Lemerre faces selection headaches that many of his peers would love to have, is the current French side does show a certain weakness in central defence. Laurent Blanc's retirement from the international scene paved the way for his Manchester United team mate Mikaël Silvestre to join captain Marcel Desailly in the centre, a pairing that had trouble containing the talents of Raul in Spain's 2-1 victory over France in March 2001. However, with Bixente Lizarazu and Lilian Thuram at full-back in a defence marshalled by top-rated goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, only the very best will be able to break France down.

In midfield, Real Madrid star Zinédine Zidane will again be the team's creative lynchpin, and the ferocious skills of Arsenal's Patrick Vieira can be supported by a host of defensive or offensive players as the need arises.

Arsenal's Thierry Henry has earned Lemerre's trust as first-choice striker, and Juventus man David Trezeguet has become something of a super-sub in late second-half appearances, such as in the UEFA EURO 2000 final, where he bagged the winner.

Significant past players:

Didier Deschamps, Laurent Blanc, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse, Michel Platini, Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa


-- 3rd 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden

-- 4th 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain

-- 3rd 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico

-- Champion 1998 FIFA World Cup France

-- 4th UEFA European Championship France 1960

-- Champion UEFA European Championship France 1984

-- Semi-final UEFA European Championship England 1996

-- Champion UEFA European Championship Holland/Belgium 2000

-- Champion Olympic Football Tournament 1984

-- Champion FIFA Confederations Cup Korea/Japan 2001

Source: FIFA

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