History beckons for Les Bleus. If Didier Deschamps’ side lift the World Cup in the Lusail Stadium on the 18th of December, they will become only the third nation to win back-to-back tournaments, following on the heels of Italy (1934 and 1938), and Brazil (1958 and 1962). Not only will they be the first team to achieve that feat in 60 years, but they will also gain entry to an exclusive group of countries that have won the greatest competition in sport three or more times, joining Brazil (five times), Germany (four times) and Italy (also four times). So, how likely is it to happen?
There is a reason why no one has managed it for six decades. Winning the Cup in the first place is obviously an incredibly tough ask. It requires a group of players to reach their prime and hit their stride at just the right time, not just in their careers but in that particular season. Doing that once is one thing, but being able to do that again four years later with largely the same group of players is another thing entirely.
To win the World Cup, first of all you have to get out of the group stages. France have been drawn in Group D, alongside Australia, Denmark and Tunisia. The group is not the easiest, but it is certainly not the hardest. Let’s face it, if any of the three other teams in Group D get anywhere near the final it will go down as one of football’s greatest underdog stories, but that is not to say that none of them will pose a threat. On paper, especially if they have real ambitions to go all the way, Australia (ranked 39th in the world), Denmark (ranked 10th) and Tunisia (ranked 30th) should not stop France (ranked 4th) from, at the very least, getting out of the group.
It would not be a first, however, if France didn’t manage it. They themselves failed to win a game, or indeed score a goal, when they went to Japan and South Korea in 2002 to defend their title. They join the ranks of Brazil, Italy, Germany and Spain who have also failed to get out of the group four years after winning the World Cup.
ranks of Brazil, Italy, Germany and Spain who have also failed to get out of the group four years after winning the World Cup.
What is stopping France winning in Qatar?
Like with all elite sport, the two reasons why a person or team doesn’t win is that either they did not perform to their best capabilities, or even if they did, those capabilities were just not good enough on the day. Let’s start with the first of these eventualities.
On paper, the French team is full of star names, players who are capable of producing the magic on the pitch that lifts their team and punishes the opposition. Plus, they have already been there and done it before, along with their manager, which can be counted as a huge bonus. Howver, the players are now four years older. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes it isn’t. There is little doubt that Kylian Mbappé is better equipped for a world tournament this time around, but the same cannot be said of a small handful of his teammates with another four years on the clock.
There is also the matter of those personalities as well. Deschamps seems to have managed to keep the big personas happy, but there it’s likely that there are more people who will be expecting to play than physically can do so. The recent revelations surrounding Pogba suggest he has preferred status, something that is not always conducive for squad morale.
On the other side of the coin, there are a handful of other teams who will be going to Qatar with equal hopes and chances of being successful. Brazil, Argentina, England, Germany and Spain will all think they can be victorious, and so will Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands. It is set to be a fascinating five weeks, whatever happens, and we wait with bated breath to see which page in the history books is rewritten by Deschamps this autumn.