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How France’s ‘golden generation’ compare to the squad that headed to the ’98 World Cup

From unloved no.9s to hometown heroes, here's how France's current squad compares to the one that went on the win the 1998 World Cup

Close your eyes, throw on Intergalactic by Beastie Boys and cast your minds back to the summer of 1998.

France headed to their own World Cup as 11/2 second favourites lift the trophy, although the bookies believed Ronaldo was going to get his hands on it with Brazil.

Twenty years later, and with the ‘golden generation’ tag weighing heavy, Didier Deschamps’ squad travel to Russia as 11/2 fourth favourites.

So how do the omens looks for France to repeat the heroics of ’98? Come on in and we’ll have a little look.

Numbers game

For some strange reason we love to put crushing significance on squad numbers heading into a tournament.

Take the no.1 shirt for example. The starting goalkeeper.

Fabien Barthez, always one to go against the grain, shat on that notion when he played every minute of France’s World Cup triumph wearing the no.16 shirt, leaving no.1 Bernard Lema watching on.

Hugo Lloris has taken the no.1 shirt this time around and should go past 100 caps at the tournament, with no.16 Steve Mandanda realistically only third choice.

Two heavyweights of the goalkeeping world

AP:Associated Press
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Two heavyweights of the goalkeeping world

As far as the outfield players go, Kylian Mbappe has inherited Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane’s no.10 shirt, which was last worn at a World Cup by public enemy no.1 Karim Benzema.

Deschamps lifted the trophy wearing no.7 and has chosen Antoine Griezmann to potentially do the same although, in terms of playing style, they are chalk and fromage.

Finally, we come to the no.9 shirt. In 1998 Stephane Guivarc’h- arguably the most forgettable member of France’s squad, unless you regularly peruse ‘worst Premier League players ever’ articles- led the line.

Fast forward twenty years and Olivier Giroud has been given the honour, although he’s also unlikely to star for France unless they take the aerial route.

Hometown heroes

Nothing gets the patriotic juices flowing like watching one of your hometown heroes making their mark at international level, allowing you to belt out ‘HE’S ONE OF OUR OWNNNNN’ at the top of your voice.

France’s ’98 squad had ten player still turning out in Ligue 1, while the current crop have one fewer.

They aren’t all from PSG either.

In 1998 France’s Ligue 1 stars came from Auxerre, Marseille, Metz, Monaco and PSG, giving them a healthy spread of five clubs.

This time around they come from Lyon, Marseille, Monaco and PSG. Auxerre just finished 11th in Ligue 2 while FC Metz were relegated from the second division. Make of that what you will.

Metz’s finest

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Metz’s finest

If you’re worried about cliques forming then allow us to put your fears to ease.

In 1998 players from 15 different clubs were called up, the same number as 2018. It’s worth triggering Arsenal fans by pointing out that no Gunners made the cut this year.

Auxerre and Monaco shared the honour of providing the most players in 1998. This time it’s the riches of PSG and Marseille who can claim the World Cup victory as their own if France go all the way.

Experience

If they’re good enough, they’re old enough (except when you lose).

France’s ’98 squad had an average age of 26 years and seven months, which is positively geriatric compared to 2018’s 25 years and six months.

But 19-year-old Mbappe is the only teenager who made either squad. David Trezeguet was the youngest player in 1998 at the age of 20.

That doesn’t mean the teenager will get an easy ride. Mbappe already has 15 caps to his name, compared to Trezegol’s four, and is expected to spark France’s attack.

Age is nothing but a number

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Age is nothing but a number

At the other end of the spectrum are the golden oldies.

Goalkeeper Lama was the elderly statesman in 1998 at the age of 35. Presumably he spent the entire time talking about ‘back in his day’ when life was black and white.

This time around it falls to Mandanda to bore the youngsters senseless with long chats about VHS, Walkmans and porn magazines.

Say what you want about Lama’s lack of playing time but he was elite at putting players on his shoulders

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Say what you want about Lama’s lack of playing time but he was elite at putting players on his shoulders

Staying with goalkeepers, PSG’s Alphonse Areola is the only player in either ’98 or 2018 to head to the tournament without a cap to his name.

Deschamps’ 23-man squad has eight players with less than ten caps, compared to seven players in ’98- three of whom were Trezeguet, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieria.

France’s current squad also come out on top in terms of experience, with five players travelling to Russia with at least 50 caps to their name compared to two in 1998.

Ten points you if you can name them? Three… two… one. The answer is Laurent Blanc (68) and Deschamps (69;).

What does all this mean? Absolutely nothing. But that shouldn’t stop you enjoying the best month of your life.

Vive Le World Cup.