Profiles - World Cup Teams - France
France Complacency could be France's biggest obstacle at the World Cup finals.

Roger Lemerre's side, who will start as favourites together with Argentina, have nothing to prove.

Success at Euro 2000 has been added to their triumph at France '98 and even FIFA's hard-to-climb world rankings system places them top, although they had to wait until May 2001 before finally ousting Brazil.

Over the past five years, dating back to their penalty shootout defeat by the Czech Republic at Euro 96, France have steadily developed an impressively deep reservoir of soccer talent.

Yet few of their stars play in their homeland, tempted abroad by wealthier clubs in leagues such as Italy and England.

Some 75 players are currently exporting their French flair abroad and the strength-in-depth is such that talented players such as Leeds United's Olivier Dacourt, Aston Villa's David Ginola or Torino's Benoit Cauet are regularly snubbed by Lemerre.

The flow of fresh new talent shows no sign of running dry.

Young players such as AJ Auxerre's Djibril Cisse and Olympique Lyon pair Peguy Luyindula and Sidney Govou look well capable of succeeding current regulars like Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Nicolas Anelka.

Lemerre's main problem in Korea and Japan will be to find the right blend between the veterans of past World Cup and European championship campaigns and new talent.

The indications are that Lemerre will stick by his old guard.

Any experimenting he may have done during the past year, and especially in the Confederations Cup last summer, was due to circumstances surrounding player availability.

"France have been doing all right for some time and if the old ones, the title holders, behave like they should, there is no reason to make changes even though the squad is open," Lemerre said in August.

Asked about the chances of gifted youngsters like Cisse making it to next year's World Cup, Lemerre replied: "I'm not France's Under-21 manager."

As a result, despite the international retirements of former captain Didier Deschamps and libero Laurent Blanc, France's team next summer should look rather familiar.

Manchester United Fabien Barthez is the undisputed first choice in goal while Lilian Thuram, Franck Leboeuf, new captain Marcel Desailly and Bayern's Bixente Lizarazu should provide the defensive backbone of the team.

In midfield, Real Madrid playmaker Zinedine Zidane, seen in France and abroad as the best player in the world, is a certain pick.

Arsenal's Patrick Vieira, Chelsea's Emmanuel Petit and Bolton's Youri Djorkaeff - in particular Djorkaeff after Robert Pires suffered such cruel injury misfortune - won't be taking any holidays next June either.

Lemerre's main dilemma will be in attack where he has more gifted players than World Cup tickets.

Trezeguet has recovered well from a serious knee ligament injury suffered in the controversial friendly against Australia in November, but the loss of Pires means he may not necessarily line up alongside Henry, whose experience as a winger stands Lemerre in good stead.

Liverpool loan striker Nicolas Anelka, Christophe Dugarry of Bordeaux, Arsenal's Sylvain Wiltord are next in line, but the young hopeful Cisse could yet force a string case.

Whoever plays will be going to Korea and Japan with one thought in common. They all expect to return home a month or so later as World Champions. homepage