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Rise Of Les Bleus: The Incredible Run Of 1998 Champions France At The FIFA World Cup

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After the fiasco of 2010 (where a few players revolted) and 2014 (where they lost to a resolute German team), France have reached their second World Cup in 12 years. Coached by the 1998 World Cup winning captain Didier Deschamps, the average age of this squad is just 26, showing how much trust he has in his young players even after the defeat in the Euro 2016 final.

Another feature of this French side is the total number of players (16) who were children of immigrants. Eight players of the current squad settled in banlieues (literally meaning suburbs) in French around Paris, including Kylian Mbappe. As much credit goes to Deschamps and his attacking tactics, one must not forget the liberal policies of French immigration which has contributed so much.

Here's the 6 games which has seen France reach the World Cup final:

Group Stages

Kylian MbappeReuters

Placed in Group C containing Denmark, Australia and Peru, France were expected to go through comfortably. Deschamps tinkered with his lineup in the group stage, beginning with a 4-3-3 formation against Australia. Griezmann scored the first ever VAR-assisted goal with a penalty, while a huge deflection off Aussie defender Aziz Behich saw France to a 2-1 win.

Their second game saw France start with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Deschamps including Chelsea striker Giroud in his formation. They labored to a 1-0 win, thanks to a goal by Mbappe. By now, they had secured qualification to the Round of 16. A final group game against Denmark saw both sides content to sit back, with the game finishing a goalless draw. France's opponents in the Round of 16? Argentina.

Round Of 16

Kylian MbappeReuters

A World Cup classic on the 30th of June saw France to a 4-3 win over the South Americans, who scraped through their group. Mbappe showed the world what he is capable of, doing the Thierry Henry style of pace against the feeble Argentinean defence. Rojo brought him down, and Atleti stiker Griezmann duly converted. Argentina even went ahead after a sizzling Di Maria shot and a deflection off defender Mercado to give them a 2-1 lead in the 48th minute.

But this was the game where France showed maturity beyond their years and patiently knocked on the door. 22 year old Benjamin Pavard equalized with one of the strikes of the tournament, a crisp half volley into the top corner. Mbappe further underlined his credentials for Golden Ball, with a smart left footed finished under the keeper in the 64th minute to give France the lead.

A quick counter in the 68th minute involving Giroud saw Mbappe finish off Argentina with a fourth. Aguero's late consolation was too little, too late for the beleaguered nation. France were up against the defensive fort of Uruguay in the quarterfinals.

Quarterfinals

Paul PogaReuters

Up against the Diego Godin and Co, France had a tough task ahead of them. Deschamps begin in a 4-2-3--1 formation, wanting Giroud to hold up play. He wanted aerial ability after Uruguay knocked out Portugal in the Round of 16, albeit a Cavani header for La Garra Charrua's opener. Patience was France's virtue again in this game, and the opener came courtesy a well worked set piece.

Defender Varane ran diagonal to Griezmann's free-kick, heading it past Muslera for the opener in the 40th  minute. France's second came twenty minutes after a Griezmann shot. His swerving left footer seemed to be going straight at Muslera, who moved to his right. The 32-year-old fumbled it, with the ball looping over the line. Les Bleus defensive stability saw them to a 2-0 win and a blockbuster semifinal clash against Belgium

Semifinals

Samuel UmtitiReuters

Eliminating Brazil in the quarterfinals, Belgium were seen as hot favorites for the World Cup. Coach Martinez placed De Bruyne in the quarterfinal position, bringing in Dembele for cover in midfield. France began Matuidi in place of Tolisso, with both teams playing defensively in the first half. The only goal of the game came via France's smart set piece movement. A corner in the 51st minute saw Umtiti beat Fellaini and Courtois at the near post, with France defending resolutely till the end.

France will look to exorcise the ghosts of Euro 2016 after losing on home soil. Croatia will to avenge their semifinal loss to France in 1998. Can Lloris become the fourth ever goalkeeper to lead a country to World Cup on Sunday? We must wait and see.

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