France 1998 World Cup
Coach: Aime Jacquet / Raymond Domenech
Achievements: World Cup winners 1998; Finalists 2006
Key Players: Zidane, Henry, Thuram, Vieira, Djorkaeff, Lizarazu, Blanc, Deschamps, Ribery
Star Player: Zidane
The story of this team is one of football's great stories. France surprised the world by winning the World Cup in 1998 as hosts. They were led by the genius of Zidane but had talent throughout the team, as seen by the brilliance of the defender Thuram, and were a source of renewed national pride.
Jacquet unveiled a tactical revolution in 1998 which has
changed the game since. Playing without wingers and with a target man in Guivarc'h, not a natural goalscorer his job was simply to hold the ball up, the attacking talent came from midfield. The innovation was the return of the two-tier midfield, a separation of attacking and defensive midfielders that harked back to the W-M formation in some ways. Since this innovation few teams now play with less than 3 players in the central midfield area (certainly in international or European football), for risk of losing control of the game. Additionally now two attacking midfielders often shuttle between attack and midfield and full-backs are increasingly relied upon to provide width.
The configuration of this midfield varied depending on the personel available and the opponents. In 1998 it was mostly 4-3-2-1; by 2002, with the emergence of the great Vieira it was more 4-2-3-1 (today's default formation). The great Henry was also a regular in the team by 2002. Despite these talents the team underperformed and slumped badly in both the 2002 World Cup and in Euro 2004. In 2006 however they had one last great flowering. Led by great performances from the veterans Zidane, Vieira and Thuram they reached the Final. Then the achilles heel of Zidane: his short-temper and ill-discipline, led to him walking off the pitch empty handed on his last ever international game. A sad end to the career of a true legend.