Winners of two European Championships and one football World Cup, the French national football team have been played international football since 1904. Recent teams for France have fielded the likes of Frank Ribery and Karim Benzema; but going back in time there have been some great players who have turned out for “Les Bleus”.
The French national team has played host to one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game, the mighty Zinedine Zidane. In 2004 a UEFA poll named Zizou as the greatest European player of all time, beating the likes of Beckenbauer, Cruyff and Van Basten.
An attacking midfielder, Zidane was known for his unbelievable skill where the ball would seem to be glued to hit fit, as well as his ferocious shot. Whilst playing for Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid, Zidance would play 108 times for France and score 31 goals. His international career would see him win the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, and be named FIFA World player of the year in 1998, 2000, and 2003. Zidane would call time on his twelve-year international career after the 2006 World Cup final where he was sent off in extra-time.
Prior to Zidane, Michel Platini was widely considered to be the greatest player to have played for the French national team. Indeed Platini is the only player to have won the European Player of the Year title in three successive seasons; a feat he did in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
Playing in midfield for France, Platini is acknowledged as one of the best passers to have ever played the game, but he was also a great finisher. In 72 games for France, from 1976 through to 1987, Platini would find the back of the net 41 times for his country, a then French record.
Eric Cantona was one of the most creative and skilful footballers of his generation; equally though he was also one of the most controversial.
After his debut against West Germany in August 1987, Cantona would play 45 internationals for France until his international career ended in 1995. Domestically this period would see Cantona play for Auxerre, Marseilles, Nimes, Leeds and Manchester United.
In 45 games Cantona would score 20 goals, playing as a creative player, but his international career was curtailed by fallings out with international and domestic coaches, as well as a lengthy suspension whilst playing for Manchester United. Indeed this suspension allowed Zinedine Zidane to effectively replace Cantona in the French team, and Cantona was subsequently unable to unseat him.
A World Cup legend, Just Fontaine has one of the most impressive international scoring records of anyone. Moving from the amateur team, USM Casablanca, to Nice in 1953, Fontaine was quickly picked to play for the French national team, and on his debut for “les Bleus”, managed to score a hat-trick.
Fontaine would play for France only 21 times but would score 30 goals, including 13 in the 1958 World Cup. In addition to Nice, Fontaine would also play for Stade de Reims, although his football career was cut short by injury in 1962.
Thierry Henry is the all time record goal scorer for France, with 51 goals in 123 appearances. Wining caps for his country whilst playing at Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona, Henry played for France from 1997 through to 2010.
With France, Henry was both a World Cup winner (1998) and European Championship winner (2000).
Other notable players who have played for France include the likes of; Lilian Thuram, who has the record number of appearances for France with 142 caps; Marcel Desailly (116 caps); Patrick Viera (107 caps); Didier Descamps, who was captain of the team 51 times out of his 103 caps; and Jean-Pierre Papin, who scored 30 goals in his 54 appearances.