What are the expectations for the team?
The French public are pessimistic. Which is a good indicator that they’ll get to the final at least, previous low expectations having been recorded in 1998 and 2006. Ten years on, four players from the 1998 World Cup squad – Patrick Vieira, Lilian Thuram, David Trezeguet and Thierry Henry – could all take part. If picked, Nicolas Anelka, another player from 1998 generation, will be looking to score his first goal in a major international competition. There is some optimism surrounding the new generation represented by Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema – all three tipped as the next Zidane – as well as “Kaiser Franck” Ribéry.
Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials?
Adidas are making the most of their penultimate tournament as kit suppliers. Nike will take over from 2011 for at least seven years with a €320m deal – football’s most expensive shirt deal ever. An advert for the new Adidas shirt features Vieira, Benzema, Nasri and Djibril Cissé claiming: “This shirt doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to those who cry when we win and cry when we lose.”
Is the coach popular?
Raymond Domenech has maintained a surprisingly low level of popularity despite being the first France coach to qualify the team for two successive major competitions. He revealed his penchant for media attention this year by setting up an April Fool’s joke via a video message on the FFF’s website. During the video he announced that he wouldn’t be sending a team to Euro 2008 but was saving them for the next World Cup. “I’ve discussed this with Patrick Vieira and he’s prepared to play on for another two years.”
Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
It could be a generational thing or maybe just the difference between pay in the French League and the Premier League: whereas Anelka boasts of owning six cars including a Rolls Royce Phantom, Benzema boasts of owning two mobile phones.
Any players involved in politics?
Thuram remains the most active, criticising Nicolas Sarkozy during the Presidential elections, a year ago, for his immigration policy and “waking the latent racism in French people”. Domenech has called for those who oppose China’s oppression of Tibet to boycott TV coverage of the Olympics.
What will the media coverage like?
Thierry Roland, TF1’s commentator for France’s victories in 1984, 1998 and 2000, will be back, aged 70, to commentate for commercial rival M6. His replacement on TF1 in 2004, Thierry Gillardi, died in April aged just 49 shortly before the France v England game. Roland will be assisted by Frank Leboeuf, while TF1’s team is likely to include Arsène Wenger but not Laurent Blanc, who almost made a career of TV punditry before becoming manager of Bordeaux.
Will there be many fans travelling to the tournament?
The FASFF, the Federation of French Football Supporters, used the World Cup in Germany to bring together ultras from different clubs to support the France team. They may try the same again in 2008, but will struggle to reconcile supporters from Lens and Paris after PSG supporters greeted their opponents at the French League Cup final with a banner reading: “Welcome to the unemployed, inbred paedophiles.” Neil McCarthy