France National team roster
France haven’t exactly fallen on hard times, but Les Bleus haven’t necessarily lit the world of soccer on fire of late, either. Since their march to the 2006 World Cup final, France have been far from elite and they flirted with disaster in the 2014 qualifying campaign, falling behind Ukraine 2-0 in the first leg of a playoff before winning 3-0 in the second leg to earn their fifth straight World Cup berth. But one player who helped them get past Ukraine, Franck Ribery, is lost to a back injury and will not feature in Brazil.
WORLD CUP PROSPECTS
Even without Ribery, France still possess the most pure soccer talent of any team in Group E and they'll hope it materializes in order to clinch a first-place finish. That's because second place in Group E will more than likely set up a date with Argentina, while first place earns them a more familiar, European-heavy corner of the knockout bracket. But France's final group record will ultimately come down to whether their mentality and team spirit is just right. And after the meltdown and infighting in 2010, that's not an easy ask.
GROUP E SCHEDULE
June 15: vs. Honduras, Porto Alegre
June 20: vs. Switzerland, Salvador
June 25: vs. Ecuador, Rio de Janeiro
(pictured left): One of the most talked about central midfielders in all of Europe, the 21 year old is already a fixture at Italian champions Juventus. He covers a ton of ground, but it's what he can do with the ball at his feet that earns him the headlines: crisp passing and stunning long-distance bombs like this one.
: The big, physical striker is a lightning rod for criticism with both club and country because of his inconsistent scoring. Despite just two goals in qualifying, his club coach at Arsenal believes the Frenchman is one of the best strikers in the English Premier League.
: One of the maddening talents in the soccer world, partly because of inconsistency and partly because he's overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. But a more mature Benzema flourished in Spain, scoring big goals for Real Madrid in clutch moments during 2014. France will hope he can replicate that good form in Brazil.