Having reached the last four final tournaments, France are currently enjoying their most consistent run of success in qualifying. Progress was not always so smooth, however, and before finding their rhythm Les Bleus missed out on Italy 1990, struggling to replace the gifted generation led by Michel Platini. Worse followed four years later when they experienced heartbreak on the road to USA 1994. Needing just a single point from their final two home outings, they lost to both Israel and Bulgaria, the latter defeat coming via a last-minute Emil Kostadinov strike. Automatic qualifiers as hosts in 1998 and as champions in 2002, France had to dig deep to reach Germany 2006, before requiring a controversial play-off victory against the Republic of Ireland to stamp their ticket to South Africa 2010.
FIFA World Cup finals history
France have always commanded respect on the global stage thanks to various legendary players and impressive performances dating back to 1930, but they made the leap to a whole new level in 1998. Whereas Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Co experienced agony at the semi-final stage in 1982 and 1986, the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Laurent Blanc and Didier Deschamps finally took Les Bleus all the way, lifting the Trophy on home soil. That was followed by a surprise group-stage exit four years later, but they came close to adding a second star to their shirts in 2006, only losing out on penalties to Italy in the Final. Without 'Zizou' in their ranks, France then made a forgettable tilt at South Africa 2010, disappointing their supporters both on and off the pitch.
The current crop
The French production line continues to turn out some of the most sought-after talents in the world game, but following in the footsteps of the 1998 world champions and 2006 runners-up has proved no easy task. Typically cited as among the favourites ahead of any major tournament, Les Bleus failed to win a single game at either UEFA EURO 2008 or the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a record the present generation will be anxious to draw a line under as they kick off their Brazil 2014 bid.
The key players
France boast solidity and strength in depth at the back, with a pair of top-drawer goalkeepers in Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda and a rearguard marshalled by experienced European campaigners Eric Abidal and Philippe Mexes. Further forward, Franck Ribery can produce moments of magic and Karim Benzema possesses a keen eye for goal.
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup France 1998 (Winners), Men's Olympic Football Tournament Los Angeles 1984 (Winners), FIFA Confederations Cup Korea/Japan 2001, France 2003 (Winners), FIFA U-17 World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2001 (Winners), and FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Rio de Janeiro 2005 (Winners)
Former stars: Just Fontaine, Michel Platini, Zinedine Zidane