Football in France – Part 1
Football is the most popular sport in France with over 1,800,000 registered players and 18,000 registered clubs. The country hosted the FIFA World Cup finals in both 1938 and 1998, as well as being home to the UEFA European Championships of 1960, 1984 and 2016. The national team is known as Le Bleus, and it took part in the inaugural World Cup in 1930. It has won the competition once in 1998 and finished as runners-up in 2006. It has also won the UEFA European Championships in both 1984 and 2000, and French football has been as strong as it has ever been over the last 30 years.
The team regularly produces some of the greatest players in the world. During the 1950’s, the side were also strong with two of their most influential players being Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine. In 1958 the side finished third at the FIFA World Cup after losing to the eventual winners Brazil in the semi-finals.
The 1980s saw the emergence of France as a powerful team and the side was inspired by their midfield maestro Michel Platini. He played for the national team on 72 occasions and scored 41 goals, and he later went on to manage the side over a 5-year period. During his time in the side, he was granted the Ballon d’or and named the player of the year on three consecutive occasions between 1983 and 1985. The side’s greatest achievement was winning the World Cup in 1998. This victory came after a number of near misses and the side contained several players that would have got into any side in the world at that time. The man who captained the side was Didier Deschamps, who is now the current French national manager.
A young player who was in the 1998 World Cup winning squad was Thierry Henry. He was an unused substitute in the final but went onto play 123 times for France scoring 51 goals. During the 2000s, he was the most dangerous striker in the world scoring 174 goals in 254 appearances for Arsenal and he managed 333 goals in the whole of his 18 year career.
In the 1998 Final 3-0 victory against Brazil two of the goals were scored by Zinedine Zidane. The midfield player won 108 caps for France scoring 31 goals. He won the FIFA world player of the year on three occasions and his club career saw him winning many trophies for Marseilles, Juventus and Real Madrid. He is the current a manager at Real Madrid, where he has been in charge since 2016, and already he has been part of a side that has won the UEFA Champions League and its own domestic title. Zidane was borne to Algerian parents and is a reflection of the multi-cultural mix that the national side has fielded for a number of years.
The current French side is also ethnically diverse and is a young and exciting side that finished runners-up in the 2016 UEFA European Championship losing 1-0 to Portugal after extra time. One of the side’s most promising players in the midfielder Paul Pogba. In 2016 Manchester Unites paid Juventus 105 million Euros to buy the player, which was then a world record transfer fee. He was born to Guinean parents and is one of the most exciting players in the world. He is a practicing Muslim and the 25-year-old has already played 51 times for France scoring 9 goals.