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Soccer-France World Cup draw factbox

Reuters

PARIS, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Factbox on World Cup qualifiers

France:

Form and prospects

France were always going to struggle to qualify directly,

being in the same Group I as Spain. They finished three points

behind the world champions, but scored more goals, and their

only defeat was 1-0 by Spain in Paris. They recovered pride by

drawing the return leg 1-1 in Madrid.

In the playoffs, Didier Deschamps' team lost the first leg

2-0 in Ukraine, triggering nationwide despondency. But France

recovered with panache to win the return leg 3-0.

Predicting how France will fare at the finals is tough

because Les Bleus have had vastly different levels of success

since their 1998 triumph on home soil.

They were eliminated in the first round of the 2002 World

Cup, finished runners-up in 2006 and were knocked out in the

first round in 2010 amid much off-pitch drama.

The team have improved under Deschamps with youngsters such

as Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba blooming.

Varane and Mamadou Sakho could form a decent central defence

behind a Yohan Cabaye-Pogba-Blaise Matuidi trident with Franck

Ribery leading the front three should Deschamps stick to a 4-3-3

formation.

France's weakness is the fullbacks, Patrice Evra or Gael

Clichy (left), and Mathieu Debuchy or Bacary Sagna (right),

being suspect defensively.

Deschamps also needs to unearth a killer striker with

Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema yet to prove themselves on a

regular basis.

Coach: Didier Deschamps

Deschamps was appointed when his former France team mate

Laurent Blanc declined to extend his contract after Les Bleus

were eliminated in the quarter-finals at Euro 2012.

The 45-year-old won the World Cup, a European Championship,

the Champions League and multiple national titles in a 16-year

playing career as 'water carrier', but also as team captain.

He brought this winning mentality to his coaching career,

leading Monaco to the 2004 Champions League final before helping

Juventus return to Serie A after a match-fixing scandal in 2007.

Deschamps, who deals well with pressure, led Olympique

Marseille to their first French league title in 18 years in

2010.

Key player: Franck Ribery

Ribery completed his return to grace this year after a

disastrous 2010 when he was France's inspiration in their

qualifying campaign.

The Bayern Munich maestro, who also helped his club clinch a

Champions League-Bundesliga-German Cup treble, has scored six

and set up nine of France's last 27 goals.

In 2010, Ribery was involved in the French players' strike

at the World Cup, but he has since apologised and shown his best

form, shaking up defences with his dazzling runs.

"Ribery is a player capable of making the difference any

time," says Deschamps.

How they qualified: Runners-up Group I

2012

Sept 7 Finland A W 1-0 Diaby

Sept 11 Belarus H W 3-1 Capoue, Jallet, Ribery

Oct 16 Spain A D 1-1 Giroud

2013

March 22 Georgia H W 3-1 Giroud, Valbuena, Ribery

March 26 Spain H L 0-1

Sept 6 Georgia A D 0-0

Sept 10 Belarus A W 4-2 Ribery 2 (1pen), Nasri,

Pogba

Sept 15 Finland H W 3-0 Ribery, own goal, Benzema

Nov 15 Ukraine A L 0-2

Nov 19 Ukraine H W 3-0 Sakho 2, Benzema

World Cup record:

Previous appearances 13 (1930, 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1966,

1978, 1982, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010)

Best performance: Winners 1998

Odds: William Hill odds to win World Cup (Nov 2013): 33-1

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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