THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewWhat are the expectations for the team?
Following the players' strike at the 2010 finals the French public fell out of love with their national team so spectacularly that any mention of the World Cup can provoke sanctimonious tutting and feigned indifference (this will change overnight should France do well). They've got a good draw, though, so could be potential quarter-finalists.

Is the coach popular?
Didier Deschamps is respected rather than popular thanks to a fantastic career in which he won virtually every major trophy as a player and manager (including, of course, the World Cup as France captain in 1998). He's considered lucky, too. A glance at France's Group E opponents would suggest some truth in that.

Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
The players have been considered toxic since going on strike in South Africa four years ago. Off-field scandals involving several star names haven't helped. The young generation (Paul Pogba, Raphaël Varane, Lucas Digne) have a chance of starting afresh with the public and raking in the cash by doing well this summer.

Which players are good interviewees and who are 
the worst?
Lille midfielder Rio Mavuba is a journalists' dream, always willing to comment. Sadly for the press he is no more than a contender for a place in the squad. Karim Benzema receives an unfathomable level of criticism for refusing to smile as much as the media would like. Captain Hugo Lloris often wears the haunted look of someone told to give a best man's speech at five minutes' notice.

Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?
Samir Nasri's decision to celebrate against England at Euro 2012 by running towards the press box shouting "Ferme ta gueule!'" (Shut your mouth!) earned him widespread condemnation. With that in mind, players may be better sticking to a firm handshake and tap on the head.

What will the media coverage be like?
BeIN Sports, showing every game, have used Jean-Pierre Papin, Luis Fernandez and Robert Pirès all season. On international nights, TF1 employ Bixente Lizarazu and Arsène Wenger as their main co-commentators. Lizarazu had a highly publicised spat with fellow left-back Patrice Evra earlier this year so it will be interesting to see whether he holds his tongue should Evra make defensive howlers.

Will there be many fans travelling to the finals and will they have any chants?
Three months before the tournament, it was estimated only 1,000 fans had booked tickets for France matches through official channels. Cost and distance are put forward as the main reasons for the low take-up. France have never had the largest contingent of travelling fans, but this year it could be smaller than usual. James Eastham

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