There’s a pretty funny scene in Dazed and Confused while Cynthina, Tony, and Mike are left driving around after Pickford’s party gets shut down. Cynthia, lamenting on their current state of affairs, as well as a somewhat bleak outlook, describes the “every other decade theory.”
She says, “The fifties were boring. The sixties rocked. And the seventies—oh my God, they obviously suck. Come on! Maybe the eighties will be radical.”
What does this have to do with the World Cup you ask? I figured the answer would be obvious, but in case it wasn’t, I’m obviously talking about France. Don’t believe me?
1998 – Champions
Playing as the host nation, France sent out a squad, captained by current manager Didier Deschamps, of players who would go on to win nearly every trophy in European club football. The expectations weren’t sky high at the time, but looking back, it sure looks like they could have been. Henry, Vieiera, Desailly and of course the legendary Zinedine Zidane all played a major role in leading the French to their first World Cup victory.
2002 – Dead last in their group
After their World Cup in 1998 and European Championship in 2000, the expectations couldn’t have been higher for France. With pretty much the same roster, albeit without Zidane, the French bottomed out in spectacular fashion. They lost the opening match to Senegal 2-0 and exited without scoring a single goal. This proved to be worst World Cup defense since 1934.
2006 – Runner-up
In what was billed as the final run for what was a Golden Generation of players, the French made an extremely spirited run to the Final against Italy. Spearheaded by Zidane, Henry, and Chelsea favorite Claude Makélélé, the French defeated Spain, Brazil, and Portugal on route to an excellent final. While France’s 2006 World Cup is remembered for, well, this, there overall campaign can only be described as a success.
2010 – Dead last in their group
Again (are you seeing a pattern), France entered the tournament with fairly high expectations. The French brought with it a very talented squad at all three levels of the pitch. Henry and Anelka up front, Ribéry and Malouda in the middle, and Abidal and Evra anchoring the defense. Not only did they finish dead last in their group, again, they did so while also staging a player revolt against manager Raymond Domenech.
2014 – Won Group E
They’ll be favored against Nigeria and avoid the CONMEBOL foursome at the top of their bracket, so a run to the semis isn’t totally far fetched. I’m not going to be so foolish as to link the current players with their predecessors, but with Lloris, Pogba, Varane, and Benzema, the future is certainly bright for Les Blues.
Bright in 2014 and 2022.