The Full 90

2010 World Cup Preview: France

In a world, where every four years, 32 nations gather to determine a champion, only one team can hoist the World Cup trophy. [Cue the massive explosions.]

With apologies to "Iron Man 2," "Twilight" and whatever other blockbusters are headed to theaters this summer, none of them can compare to the most dramatic event of 2010: The World Cup.

The World Cup, in addition to being the only truly world championship outside of the Olympic Games, is the only tournament capable of providing the full range of human emotion:

Anger
awe
boredom depression
disgust embarrassment euphoria
frustration guilt misery pride rage
surprise

. The best screenwriters couldn't script some of those things.

To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.

The "favorite" in the Group of Disorder...

France

Group A THE BASICS

Nickname:

Colors:

FIFA Ranking:

How They Got Here:

World Cup pedigree:

12 World Cups, 1 title ('98, when they hosted), second place ('06) and third place ('58, '86).

THE PLOT

Can an unlikely couple (conservative manager Raymond Domenech and a free-spirited, youthful squad of attackers) salvage and maintain their relationship for the sake of their nation?

THE DIRECTOR

Raymond Domenech

The controversial manager is generally disliked by many of the team and often choses his starting XI based on astrological signs. This worked great in the movie "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" and it worked well for him in Germany in 2006. But it almost blew up in his face during qualifying.

LEADING MAN

Franck Ribery

The clever Bayern Munich winger has assumed the role of playmaker from Zinedine Zidane, even though he's more of a winger than central playmaker. Ribery is involved in an underage prostitution case in France, which is only one of about a billion controversies swirling around Les Bleus. It is unknown at this time whether the case will affect his World Cup status.

SUPPORTING CAST

Thierry Henry Karim Benzema William Gallas

(defender, Arsenal) will be tasked with organizing a solid but not spectacular defense.

LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR

Yoann Gourcuff

(attacking midfielder, Bordeaux).

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Domenech

He's had a few dust-ups with his players and is likely going to walk the plank as soon as the Cup is over.

PRODUCTION NOTES

The French run a possession-based conservative offense, usually with a double dose of defensive midfielders and a lone striker.

WHAT THEY'LL WEAR

IT'S SORTA LIKE...

"She's Out of My League"

Domench is the nerdy guy and the French team are the really hot blonde. No one thinks it should work (and, more often than not, it doesn't) but somehow they are holding the relationship together.

TRAILER

DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...

The French drink more bottled water per capita than any other nation in the world.

CRITICAL BLURBS

Best-case scenario? Realistic prediction?

Failing to win Group A outright and losing to the Cup's other "headcase," Argentina, in the second round.

POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT

June 22. 88th minute. France vs. South Africa. The game is knotted up at nil-nil. Each team has won a game and drawn a game and Mexico, who have drawn twice and are beating Uruguay 3-0, will advance as the group winner on goal differential. South Africa is applying some pressure off the wing and earns a corner. The ball floats dangerously from the right. South Africa's Benni McCarthy and France's Thierry Henry go up to meet the ball with their heads. Henry reaches out and punches the ball with his hand. The referee (and karma) blow the whistle, awarding the host nation a penalty. They convert it. South Africa wins, France goes home.


Group A: South Africa Uruguay Mexico

Group B:

Group C:

Group D:

Group E:

Group F:

Group G:

Group H:

Honduras, Chile, Switzerland, Spain


Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook
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