While fans and pundits alike didn't expect wonders from France in
1998, Roger Lemerre's side starts off as favourites in this edition. The reigning champs take the field with a majority of players from
On the plus side, these players have honed their
skills and established themselves in Serie A, Primera Liga and the
English Premiership. Today, Zidane, Thuram, Vieira, Henry and
Wiltord have matured and rank among the heavyweights in world
But the downside to this squad is its greying players, notably in
defence. France can be caught napping with the fading of aging
stars at the back.
Zidane is the mainstay of France's 2002 campaign. If he reproduces
his form and weaves patterns around rival defences, France should
be in the driver's seat. With Denmark, Senegal and Uruguay in its group, France should advance comfortably into the pre-quarters. The competition could get stiffer thereon, with Argentina, Portugal, Brazil and Spain staking claim for the coveted title.
Lemerre, who was a defender in his playing days and appeared six times for his country, ensured that France kept its winning ways after World Cup '98 by also bagging Euro 2000. Thus the burden of expectation will lie on them.