France, European Championship winners in 2000, lost twice to lowly Scotland in qualifying Group B, yet advanced after finishing runners-up to World Cup winners Italy. The French ended with 26 points to Italy’s 29, but had a more impressive goal difference — they hit 25 goals in 12 qualifiers and conceded only five.
France kicked off their campaign on September 2, 2006 with a 3-0 win over Georgia in Tbilisi. Raymond Domenech’s team then followed that up four days later with a morale-boosting victory over recently crowned World Champions Italy. At the Stade de France in Paris, a brace from Sidney Govou and a Thierry Henry strike cancelled out Alberto Gilardino’s goal. The 3-1 win went some way to avenging France’s defeat to Italy in the final of Germany 2006, when favourite son Zinédine Zidane was dismissed for head-butting defender Marco Materazzi and they lost 5-3 on penalties. France then stumbled away to Scotland on October 7, losing 1-0 thanks to Gary Caudwell’s goal with 23 minutes remaining.
Domenech’s side achieved wins against Faroe Islands (5-0), Lithuania (1-0), Ukraine (2-0) and Georgia (1-0) again, before drawing against Italy in Rome. Then, in September 2007, Scotland did the double over France with a shock 1-0 win in the Stade de France thanks to James McFadden’s 64th minute screamer. France completed qualifying with victories over Faroe Islands (6-0) and Lithuania (2-0), and a 2-2 draw away to Ukraine.
Defender Lilian Thuram, the oldest player in Domenech’s squad at 36, was the only man to play all 1,080 minutes in qualifying. Thuram’s Barcelona team-mate Henry was France’s leading scorer — he netted six times in eight appearances. Domenech used 31 players in all, including a number of youngsters. Attacking midfielder Samir Nasri, 21, and 20-year-old Karim Benzema, announced their international arrivals with impressive performances and goals in Euro 2008 qualifying.
The French last won the European Championship in 2000 when David Trezeguet’s golden goal earned them a 2-1 victory and the trophy. The only other time Les Bleus have won the European Championship was in 1984 when, inspired by tournament top-scorer Michel Platini (nine goals), they defeated Spain 2-0 in the final at the Parc des Princes.
France Euro 2008 Squad
Head coach: Raymond Domenech
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