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UEFA Qualifiers

Team Profile: France

November 10, 2009
By Tom Adams

GettyImagesZinedine Zidane scored two goals as the hosts won France '98

Appearances at finals:

1930 - First round
1934 - First round
1938 - Quarter-finals
1954 - First round
1958 - Third place
1966 - First round
1978 - First round
1982 - Fourth place
1986 - Third place
1998 - Winners
2002 - First round
2006 - Runners-up

Overall record at finals: Played 51, Won 25, Drawn 10, Lost 16.

Best performance: Winners in 1998.

Most appearances at finals: Fabien Barthez (1998, 2002, 2006) - 17.

Most goals at finals: Just Fontaine (1958) - 13.

World Cup high: Ending their wait for World Cup glory on home turf in 1998 as a 3-0 win over Brazil in the final ensured that Zinedine Zidane became a national hero to rival Michel Platini thanks to his two goals.

World Cup low: Losing on penalties to West Germany in the semi-finals in 1982. After seeing Patrick Battiston knocked unconscious by a horrendous challenge from Harald Schumacher that went unpunished, France took a 3-1 lead in extra time only to lose on penalties when Schumacher saved twice.

World Cup legend: Zinedine Zidane, who scored twice in the 1998 final to beat Brazil and was the star of the tournament. Eight years later in Germany, he recaptured his best form to help France reach the final and scored an audacious penalty against Italy, only for his tournament to end in ignominy when he plunged his head into the chest of Marco Materazzi, earning a red card.

The story so far: A third-place finish in Sweden in 1958 aside, France had for a long time been accustomed to early exits on football's biggest stage, but all that was to change in 1982 thanks to a team led by the masterful Michel Platini.

Les Bleus reached the semi-finals in Spain but were defeated in cruel circumstances as Harald Schmacher's Germany progressed on penalties following a 3-3 thriller, with France finishing fourth. Four years later in Mexico, they went one better, defeating Brazil in a thrilling quarter-final before losing to West Germany in the semi-finals and eventually finishing third.

France subsequently failed to qualify for the next two World Cup finals but upon their return, as hosts in 1998, a new generation of stars led them to their first and so far only triumph. Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Marcel Desailly and Didier Deschamps were among the key performers under Aime Jacquet, but his successor, Roger Lemerre, oversaw a shocking campaign in 2002 as they failed to qualify from their group. In 2006, they surprised many observers by making the final before Zidane ended his career in explosive fashion as Italy eventually won out in a penalty shoot-out.

Qualification: The circumstances of France's qualifiction for the finals are now infamous, with Thierry Henry's handball at the Stade de France infuriating Republic of Ireland, who subsequently demanded a replay of the play-off second leg.

Prior to that controversial night, France had limped in behind Serbia in Group Seven, opening their campaign with a shocking 3-1 defeat to Austria. After beating Serbia and then drawing away in Romania, France secured two 1-0 wins over Lithuania and a narrow victory over the Faroe Islands before drawing at home to Romania and then away at Serbia.

Home wins over Faroe Islands and Austria secured second spot but it was an unconvincing campaign to say the least.

Qualifying record: P12, W7, D4, L1, F20, A10, Pts24.

Most appearances: Thierry Henry, Bacary Sagna (11).

Top goalscorers: Thierry Henry, André-Pierre Gignac (4).