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France

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You can never quite be sure what France will produce at a World Cup, but for Brazil 2014 there will be no excuses if they suffer another disappointing campaign.
 
Consistency is not the strong suit of France, who famously lifted the trophy on home soil in 1998 and followed up in the European Championship two years later.
 
Reaching the final in 2006 was another high, but there have also been a couple of dreadful lows since the turn of the century for Les Bleus failed to advance from their group in either 2002 or 2010, on each occasion drawing one game and losing two.
 
However, if it all goes wrong on this trip to South America, the French will only have themselves to blame – although that was also the case four years ago when the players were at odds with coach Raymond Domenech and the campaign ended in meltdown.
 
This time, France have received a very favourable World Cup Group E draw. They were not seeded after coming through a qualification play-off against the Ukraine in which they were 2-0 down from the first leg before turning the tie around with a 3-0 win in Paris.
 
The first opponents for France will be Honduras on Sunday June 15 in Porto Alegre before they take on the seeded team, Switzerland, in Salvador on Friday June 20.
 
If qualification for the last 16 at that stage is still in doubt, France have the opportunity to wrap up a place in the knockout phase against Ecuador on Wednesday June 25 in the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro.
 
Coach Didier Deschamps had some difficult decisions to make when naming his 23-man France squad for the World Cup and one of the most controversial was the omission of Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri.
 
Deschamps explained the exclusion by saying Nasri had simply not performed well enough for his country and that he had built “the best squad, not the 23 best players”.
 
Also missing out are Nasri’s team-mate at the English champions, left-back Gael Clichy, and veteran Monaco defender Eric Abidal, with the focus on youth as the likes of Lucas Digne, Eliaquim Mangala, Antoine Griezmann and Clement Grenier have been included.

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