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Far worse picks than in-form France for World Cup dark horses

| 03.06.2014

Having turned around their play-off first-leg deficit against Ukraine in dramatic fashion just to make the World Cup finals, France are a squad with the wind in their sails after some notable friendly results.

Manager Didier Deschamps clearly caused controversy by omitting the outspoken Samir Nasri from his 23-man squad to travel to Brazil, but the former World Cup winner’s convictions that the team is more important than any individual could be key to a successful tournament for Les Bleus.

The finalists of 2006 are deemed 20/1 shots to repeat their 1998 success and given Lady Luck has shone favourably by placing them alongside Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras in Group E then French hopes are looking up.

Only an 89th-minute equaliser from Paraguay in their latest warm-up match prevented Deschamps’ charges from recording four straight wins to nil since losing 2-0 in Kiev in that play-off first leg.

Before that 1-1 draw against the south Americans, Holland were soundly beaten by two clear goals before Norway were put to the sword 4-0 – making it six wins in their last eight and seven clean sheets in their last nine.

Any team which boasts such a resolute defence has to be considered a force on the biggest international stage of all and when no one expected much from them in Germany eight years ago, the French came to the fore once more.

It appears Deschamps has rid the French camp of the disharmony which marred their 2010 appearance in South Africa and led to a disgraced exit with just one point from their three group games.

This is a European nation blessed with top talent in every position with the added advantage of coming to the tournament under the radar.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Stéphane Ruffier (AS Saint Étienne), Mickael Landreau (SC Bastia)

Defenders: Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Lucas Digne (PSG), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Bacary Sagna (Unattached), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle United)

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Juventus), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Yohan Cabaye (PSG), Rio Mavuba (Lille LOSC), Clement Grenier (Olympique Lyonnais), Mathieu Valbuena (Olympique de Marseille), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United)

Attackers: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Loic Remy (QPR), Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad)

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.