France are pretty good at football. In fact, their status as reigning world champions probably means they’re the best team in the world right now, but the 21st century hasn’t always been kind to Les Bleus.
It began on the back of their victory at the 1998 World Cup, with success at Euro 2000 raising spirits even more, but France came crashing back down to earth soon after as they seemingly forgot how to live up to expectations.
In the first four World Cups since 1998, France have been eliminated at the group stage twice – either side of finishing as runners-up in 2006. They don’t do things in half measures. France are either amazing or thoroughly underwhelming.
What has made that mixed form so fascinating is the fact that France have regularly boasted some of the best players in the world. Their list of former stars is a real who’s who of footballing greats.
Les Bleus are now back among the best and they were tipped for success at Euro 2020 before football collapsed. That tournament may not be happening, but 90min‘s mini-World Cup is.
Let’s take a look at the best XI which France have had to offer us since the turn of the century.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Hugo Lloris (GK)
Drafted into the international setup in 2008, Lloris has been a mainstay in the squad ever since. He might be prone to the odd catastrophic error, but the Tottenham Hotspur man still led his side to World Cup glory in 2018 (in spite of his error in the final).
Willy Sagnol (RB)
After France’s downfall in 2004, Sagnol was drafted in on the right of the defence and had an instant impact. He played every minute of the 2006 World Cup as France made it all the way to the final, only to fall to Italy on penalties.
Raphaël Varane (CB)
Tipped for greatness from a young age, it’s safe to say that Varane has lived up to expectations. Thanks to his outstanding showings for Real Madrid, his trophy cabinet is the stuff of dreams, and he even has the 2018 World Cup as part of his collection.
Lilian Thuram (CB)
?@UNFP souhaite un joyeux anniversaire à Lilian Thuram, défenseur international, recordman des sélections en équipe de France masculine, qui fête aujourd’hui ses 46 ans ! pic.twitter.com/x4zbeWbz8U
— UNFP (@UNFP) January 1, 2018
France’s most-capped player of all time, Thuram was a defensive monster for Les Bleus. He won Euro 2000 as a right-back, before shifting over to a more central role and leading France to the final of the 2006 World Cup.
Bixente Lizarazu (LB)
Lizarazu was a dominant force at Euro 2000 as France went all the way, and he replicated that form to steer Les Bleus to Confederations Cup glory just one year later.
Patrick Vieira (CM)
What a machine Vieira was. A do-it-all kind of player, the former Arsenal star tasted glory at Euro 2000 and the 2001 Confederations Cup, and he brought his genius to France’s midfield for eight more years before hanging his boots up in 2009.
Claude Makélélé (CM)
Anchoring France’s midfield with utter class between 1995 and 2008, Makélélé redefined what it meant to be a defensive midfielder. His partnership with Vieira at the 2006 World Cup was something special to watch.
Zinedine Zidane (AM)
As far as attacking midfielders go, they don’t come much better than Zidane. The current Real Madrid boss was a powerful, yet graceful machine during his playing days, and that skill helped him lift the trophy in 2000. Plus, his headbutt on Marco Materazzi in 2006 was iconic.
Antoine Griezmann (RW)
One of the stars of France’s recent dominance, Griezmann was outstanding at both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. Didier Deschamps’ fluid system has allowed Griezmann to rack up goals and assists at an alarming rate, and he always steps up in the big games.
Thierry Henry (ST)
If you ask French fans to name the international side’s best player of all time, Henry’s name will be heard time and time again (but only after they’re past Michel Platini). He was one of the most complete forwards we have ever seen, and he deserved far more success than he tasted in French blue.
Kylian Mbappé (LW)
Mbappé may have only been part of the France setup since 2017, but the fact that he merits inclusion in this lineup speaks volumes of his talent. He was utterly superb at the 2018 World Cup and is now deservedly seen as one of the best players in the world.
France will face Colombia in their round of 16 matchup. Keep an eye on our social media channels to cast your vote!