The French national soccer team has had some terrific players in both past and more recent decades. Platini, Zidane, Henry and Fontaine are just a few of the great players who have starred for France. As such, French teams are usually highly ranked; and some have gone all the way in the European Championship and World Cup.
France was one of the few European countries that turned up for the 1930 World Cup. After all, Jules Rimmet could not have the first cup without his national team in it. However, France did not go beyond the first round of this tournament.
In 1938, France hosted its first World Cup. Although France could not win it, it was still a good tournament for them. They reached the quarter finals for the first time where the eventual champions Italy defeated them.
The '58 FIFA World Cup was also a good one for the French. In this tournament France made it to the semifinals. Then the eventual winners Brazil defeated them 5 - 2 thanks largely to a historic Pele hat-trick. Not even Pele matched the brilliant Fontaine who scored a record number of goals for France.
However, the promise France showed in that tournament was not repeated in subsequent cups. In the decades that followed, France failed to qualify for numerous World Cups. They did not get beyond the first round in the few finals they did qualify for such as in '78.
They were little better in the European Championships during the '60s and '70s. France did not win any games in the first one, and did not make it past the preliminary stages of others. They did not qualify for another European Championship until 1984.
After years in the wilderness a more exciting French team emerged during the '80s. In the '82 World Cup they finished fourth, and with players such as Platini had a great team for Euro '84. Platini and France dominated this championship and won France's first trophy with a victory against Spain in the final. Platini scored nine goals, which remains a record today.
In 1986, France was among the favorites to lift the World Cup trophy. In that tournament they reached the semifinals, but could not defeat West Germany in the semifinals. Nevertheless, it was still one of their best tournaments.
During the early '90s, France could not make it to the World Cups. Twice they failed to qualify for the 1990 and '94 finals. In Euro '92, France could not get past the first round.
However, things got better for the French team when Jacquet became manager. As FIFA had selected France to host the '98 cup, they could be sure of a place in the finals at least; and an emerging crop of exciting players such as Zidane, Henry, Anelka and Vieira began to shine for France. In 1998, the French were victorious as they defeated Italy, Croatia and world champions Brazil 3 - 0 in the final to lift their first World Cup trophy. Zidane scored twice in the final to ensure victory for France.
At Euro 2000 the French were also in form and reached the final. Here they played Italy, and two late French goals ensured a 2 - 1 victory. The winning goal was a golden one scored in extra-time to win another trophy for France.
France has not able to win any further trophies in more recent tournaments. Although reaching the 2006 final was one highlight, they have not made such an impact in other tournaments. First round exits in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 has highlighted a certain decline for the French national team as the likes of Zidane, Vieira and Henry have retired from international soccer. A golden generation of players have not been replaced.
As such, no longer are they the best team in the world. However, France still has some very good players in their side that could have some impact in the next few tournaments.