World Cup: Second Teams

Second Teams: France

Editor’s note: This is the latest piece in PSP’s World Cup series, in which PSP’s writers and a few honored guests make the case for which team you should root for in the World Cup after the United States. Read the full series here.

To truly appreciate the French national team, you need to find your spot on the couch early enough to catch the French national anthem they play prior to the game. Crank that TV up to 100, and soak in the Revolutionary War anthem as the camera pans through the players mouthing the words of La Marseillaise. As the music plays, think of the lyrics that accompany those notes. If the refrain of “Let’s march, let’s march! Let an impure blood water our furrows!” doesn’t get you excited for a soccer game, then maybe France isn’t the team for you.

Once the anthem ends and your heart rate finally returns to normal, its time to focus on the players that just appeared on the screen.

Led by Didier Deschamps, this French team usually plays a very entertaining 4-3-3. The best player is the always controversial Franck Ribéry. The French team will go as far as he will lead them. Hopefully this World Cup, he won’t lead them back to the bus during a training session.

Ribéry will most likely pair up with Mathieu Valbuena as the two wingers with the task of supporting and feeding either the Real Madrid goal machine Karim Benzema or, less-likely, the Arsenal libertine Olivier Giroud. While Ribéry brings quality, Valbuena brings the work rate and commitment that is necessary for a team to do well. Though not well known outside of France, he’s been a constant bright spot for the French national team.

Behind that forward line is the most underrated trio in the World Cup.

France Football Federation logoIn the midfield you’ll see Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi, two players instrumental in helping PSG win Ligue 1. Cabaye left Newcastle mid-year to join PSG, fetching a price tag of 27 million dollars and leaving Newcastle to lose 11 of their last 15 games. Don’t be surprised if he receives a ball 35 yards from goal and decides he’s going to shoot. When he snipes it top corner, you’ll see that play again on SportsCenter’s top 10 at No. 7 behind a few incredibly routine diving baseball catches. Matuidi, on the other hand, is a hard-working center midfielder who constantly breaks up plays and starts counterattacks.

The third player that rounds out the midfield is Juventus’ 21-year-old phenom Paul Pogba. If you haven’t heard that name yet, I guarantee you won’t forget it after this World Cup.

Standing at 6-2, Pogba will mesmerize any fan with fantastic foot skills and the ability to hit a cross-field ball on a dime. Go and type Paul Pogba’s name on YouTube, and let yourself be amazed by the way he controls a soccer ball. Last summer, he led the French U-20s to a World Cup, and then went on to start 33 games for a Juventus team that won Serie A by 17 points. I mentioned he was just 21, right? Just know you heard it here first, Paul Pogba is a certified stud, and you’ll remember his name after this World Cup. You’ll probably also see him in PSG’s dark blue jerseys soon enough.

Defensively, it looks as though Deschamps will play with Mathieu Debuchy as the right back, although Bacary Sagna will also be vying for that spot. Laurent Koscielny, Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane will all battle for the two center back positions. And on the other side, Patrice Evra will have very little competition to be the starting left back.

Behind that defense is the captain and goalie Hugo Lloris. Though he plays for a terrible club team, he has been a solid goalkeeper and captain for his club as well as internationally. As captain, he’ll have to try to keep this team out of trouble off the field and unlike 2010, get the players to actually get on the field. If, unlike the past couple big tournaments, no major off-field issues arise, this team has the quality and work ethic necessary to bring a second World Cup back to France.

Entendez-vous dans les campagnes mugir ces féroces soldats? Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!” (Do you hear, in the countryside, the roar of those ferocious soldiers? They’re coming right into your arms to cut the throats of your sons and women!) With an anthem like that, this French team will be ready for battle, and they won’t be taking any prisoners.

Allez Les Bleus!


  1. I’ll always remember Zidane’s 1998 squad- and Cabaye has some of that same panache.

  2. Sean Doyle says:

    Great piece, Bravo Antoine!

  3. Haha, love that sly Spurs dig, Antoine.

  4. Le equipe je prefere après les etats unis est France. Parce-ce que je etudie le langue en college.

  5. Smackey the Frog says:

    Sup Antoine, thanks for stopping by and good luck this season!

  6. kingkowboys says:

    ummm is this really Antoine Hoppenot writing this article or did I miss something somewhere. I saw this comment in the player ratings article comments section
    Antoine Hoppenot
    May 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    I agree he has been mostly ineffective as a late game sub since his rookie year. So the answer isn’t turning him a 60-70 minute starter.
    I thought someone was just having a laugh by using that name to make that comment.
    Did Antoine just trash himself as a kind of a joke? My mind is exploding. Someone explain this.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I’m throwing it out there that someone used his name to comment. You can pick and choose any name you please… and a lot of times people will act as if they are speaking as the name they chose. I’ve been wrong PLENTY of times before, but I think that’s what we have in this case. I’m gonna assume Hopp actually wrote this.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Yes, this was written by Antoine Hoppenot, who plays for Philadelphia Union. We may have another guest writer later in the series.

      Sounds like we might have to do something about random names in the Comments section. I looked at who wrote that comment, and it wasn’t Antoine. (It was a regular reader/commenter.) I’ve edited the comment to say it was posted by AH.

  7. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    Ziadane’s Head Butt
    Henry’s HandBall
    Anelka’s Revolt
    Nasri’s girlfriend

    I’ll take France as my 32nd team thank you very much!

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    Whoa whoa whoa!! Ease up Nasri’s girlfriend… but sorry Antoine, I loved Zidane, but can’t get behind France.

  9. Love it; great article and great comments! But I hope Belgium will do better than France! Let’s see whether the small Belgium can outclass their neighbors!

  10. George H says:

    I’m a fan of any team whose supporters are able to bring a live mascot to the match (i.e. – France, Benfica, Lazio, etc.).

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