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Allez les Blues!

Well here we go again. With only days to go until the World Cup kicks off France is gearing up for the tournament and World Cup fever is taking over Paris. France aren't many people's favourites, in fact most people aren't really even putting France into the running. The French are quietly confidant and with Henry having possibly his best ever season, Lyon's success in the Champions League and Zidane returning to the fold they are really starting to believe that they are in with a chance of repeating the feat they achieved in 1998. It all starts with a game against Switzerland, in what will probably be France's toughest group game.

France and Switzerland came through the same qualification group and if their two meetings in that are anything to go by we could well expect to see Switzerland attempt to declare neutrality, retreat to their mountain hideouts and hold old for the draw. They drew 0-0 and 1-1 in the group and the prospect of another bore draw has me salivating at the fact the day will also see Brazil play Croatia and South Korea play Togo. The two teams should know each other well, afterall Switzerland is really only little France with more guns, cows and tiny knives and one of the more interest match-ups should be Henry up against his Arsenal team mate Senderos. I expect Henry to get the better of the Swiss defence, and with the pace and skill that France posess going forward they shouldn't really have any problems scoring goals in the group stages. However, after the disaster of Japan and Korea where they failed to even score once it is imperitive that if this side is to be a surprise package of the tournament that they get off to a good start. If not the French supporters will be baying for blood and I would expect that if Zidane would not be able to survive it this time. Speaking of Zizou, there is a movie out in France called Zidane that debuted at the Cannes film festival. I can't recommend it highly enough. You get to watch Zidane pant and swear from 30 angles and pretty much do nothing, though he is mysteriously sent off with only a few minutes to play, a real classic and if it is anything to go my I think we can expect the maestro to put in some fine performances this summer and leave us all wondering exactly why he bothered to come back from retirement.

The swiss can also be quite hopeful coming into the tournament. The group stages should offer them a good opportunity to progress to the second round and for a team that hasn't made it to the finals since USA 1994 and will be present for only the second time since England in 1966 that really is something to get excited about. The injury to Volanthen has come as a bit of a blow but it has allowed Hakan Yakin to be recalled, a play many of you might remember from his Champions League exploits a few seasons ago. Other than that the hopes of the team will rest on many of their players that play outside of the Swiss league, players like Senderos and Frei and it will be their defensive strength that will make them difficult for opposition teams to break down and will most likely be their strategy against France. The only other British based player in the squad is the 19 year old Arsenal defender Johan Djourou, not a household name, but a team mate of Senderos at Arsenal. If they can pull off a result in this match it will put them in a very strong position to qualify from the group and given that any team qualifying from this group will probably be pleased if they can avoid playing Spain in the next round then this could be the crucial match. If the team can keep things tight at the back and players like Yakin and Frei can produce the goods up front then anything is possible in this group and certainly their results in qualification show that they can be more than a match for the French side.

World Cup History -

France -

1930 Uruguay - Third, Pool One

1934 Italy - First Round

1938 France - Quarter-finals

1950 Brazil - Did Not Qualify

1954 Switzerland - Third, Group One

1958 Sweden - Third place

1962 Chile - Did Not Qualify

1966 England - Fourth, Group One

1970 Mexico - Did Not Qualify

1974 West Germany - Did Not Qualify

1978 Argentina - Third, Group One

1982 Spain - Fourth place

1986 Mexico - Third place

1990 Italy - Did Not Qualify

1994 U.S.A. - Did Not Qualify

1998 France - Winners

2002 Korea/Japan - First Group phase


1930 Uruguay - Did Not Qualify

1934 Italy - Quarter-finals

1938 France - Quarter-finals

1950 Brazil - Third, Pool One

1954 Switzerland - Quarter-finals

1958 Sweden - Did Not Qualify

1962 Chile - Fourth, Group Two

1966 England - Fourth, Group Two

1970 Mexico - Did Not Qualify

1974 West Germany - Did Not Qualify

1978 Argentina - Did Not Qualify

1982 Spain - Did Not Qualify

1986 Mexico - Did Not Qualify

1990 Italy - Did Not Qualify

1994 U.S.A. Second Round (last 16)

1998 France - Did Not Qualify

2002 Korea/Japan - Did Not Qualify

Star Man -

France - Henry. Do I really have to say why? His performances for Arsenal this season were simply World Class and despite the fact that he has yet to play as well for France I expect that this will be a big World Cup for him with a lot of pressure being put on him to perform and carry the side. He seems to have thrived under the pressure at Arsenal and I expect similar performances for France could well be a reason why they will get further than many people think.

Switzerland - Frei. One of the few Swiss names that many will know he has been impressive for recent seasons in Rennes and will be a threat that the French side will know all too well. Unfortunately I expect that he won't get the supply that he needs to really show off his talent, but there should be no doubting his quality.

Key Player -

France - Henry will be important in this game as the real challenge will be scoring goals. If he can lead the line well then France should be able to turn the domination that they should have into goals.

Switzerland - Vogel. If Switzerland are to get result in this game it will be important that their midfield is not overrun by France. It will have to not only protect the backline but also get forward and supply the likes of Frei, the key to this could well be Vogel. He's a hard working player, good at winning the ball but also good once he is on it.

Prediction -

France 2-0 Switzerland

I expect that following their failure in the last World Cup France will be intent on getting this one off to a good start. Their attacking quality should mean that they should be able to break down even a tough Swiss defence and that over the course of the 90 minutes the pressure should tell. Switzerland's lack of threat up front will cost them, even with the talented Frei in attack, and unless they can take the one or two chances that my fall to them or one of their players puts in a special performance I can't see them scoring or troubling the French backline, despite some defensive vulnerability.

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Brave man

I just feel that the French are a spent force, they've brought backa fair few old players and add to that a couple of donkeys in Boumsong and Barthez(was a good keeper...key word being was) and a Swiss side full of confidence with young players with nothing to lose could lead to them destroying france. Plus the fact that Henry has never set the world alight in major International competitions including European Championships, i think the Swiss can do it.

Although if that young Ribery plays for France it may be a different story, he is a different gravy to the others on the park.

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As my number 2 team in the WC finals (No 1 = Australia- Lucas Neill really IS very pretty!, No 3- Trinidad and Tobago who have a player called Jason Scotland) I'm hoping they look a bit better than in Japan. Still having fond memories of being at THAT game in Lisbon!!!

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Nasty break it was to, exactly like the break he had when McEveley tapped the back of his leg. Same thing happened today. I feel sorry for the guy and I wonder if he'll come back from this.

Question for those in the know...whatever happened to Benoit Pedretti? Not good enough for the squad? I've always rated him.

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I saw them lose narrowly to Slovakia recently so I guess anything could happen.

For Henry however, having had a disastrous world cup last time round, I think he could deliver now (a la Beckham after his 1998 shenanigans).

Mais pour ce match je vais dire la France 1 La Suisse 1.

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This is a game that I'm really looking forward to. Both teams are strong and I expect France to have a good World Cup. Both games were draws in qualifing as far as I remember and I expect it to be tight again. I'm looking forward to see what Henry can do at this World Cup, because he has failed to live up to expectations at the last one and at the European Championships. Zidane isn't the player he was, but he is still better than most and I think he'll want to go out with a bang. Franck Ribery is a star in the making and is set to start today. This guy can shread teams and could be a star at the World Cup.

Switzerland have improved hugely over the last couple of years and will be confident about qualifing from the group. They have a strong defence lead by Senderos and Muller, the midfield is run by AC Milan's Johan Vogel and upfront they have one of the best finishers in Europe in Alexander Frei. I gone to see Rennes play a couple of teams and have seen this guy up close and he is a different class. If he has a chance then he'll score.

This will be tight, but I think France have something to prove, they want to show that they are still a side capable of winning the World Cup and going forward they have more options.

2-1 to France.

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A very poor game indeed. It was certainly down there with the England match. Henry was totallt isolated up front, but still there were occasions when he got away and should have done better and this only adds to the idea that he is unable to perfrom for France like he does for Arsenal. There's no doubt that Henry is France's best player and this is because he plays so well for Arsenal, so you'd think that the French would want to play more like Arsenal in some respects, so they can get the best out of Henry. Then they'd be in business.

This performance is same one that we have seen on numerous occasions under Domenech. As such, I think you have to put much of the way France are playing down to him. I'm not of the opinion that France are a team that are over the hill. Yes, they aren't as good as they were, and some players are coming the end of the careers, but they can still play at the highest level. I thought Zidane had a good game, Makelele, Thuram, Sagnol and Gallas all did well. They are capable of so much more. I will say however, that Vieria looks a shadow of the player that he once was and the decision to leave Guily out of the team is looking even more ridiculous when you saw how poor Wiltord was. Dhorasso always impresses me and today was no different when he came on.

I hope to see Trezeguet or Saha up front with Henry in the next match and France can only improve and I still think that they'll qualify for the next round at the top of the group.

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Domonech appears to be facing the same problems that SGE has, how to play all his star players in the same team.

He is better of playing Makelele and Zidane in the middle and dropping Viera and then giving Henry a strike partner.

Both Makelele and Viera couldn't hit barn door so no need for them both as defensive midfielders if you are going to play 4 at the back.

Way too defensive for a team overflowing with attacking talent.

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You might be onto something there, with dropping Vieria for another striker to help Henry. However, I don't think Zidane could cope with the demands of central midfield role at his age. He looked good as a roaming player yesterday. I'd like to see Alou Diarra given a game in midfield over Vieria, with Dhorasso replacing Wiltord and Trezeguet or Saha up front with Henry. The French look fairly strong at the back, it's going forward that they are struggling and with the amount of talent they have, you'd have to put this down to the coach.

Edited by RoyRover
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