The FIFA Confederations Cup has come at just the right time for host nation France. One year on since their first-round exit at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, the Bleus have the perfect opportunity to prove to the world that their humbling Asian experience was a mere aberration. Here, in front of their own fans and at the scene of their 1998 FIFA World Cup triumph, France will be going all out to restore their temporarily tarnished reputation as one of the class acts in world football.
With anticipation growing in Paris prior to the FIFA Confederations Cup, renaissance is the word on the lips of all the French fans. Jacques Santini’s boys are expected to show they have put their Korean nightmare behind them and are ready to conquer the heights of world football again. “I’m hoping for a France v Brazil final,” says 19-year-old Clovis, who, like many other young fans, fell in love with this French side some five years ago. He has been a fervent supporter ever since and is looking forward to this summer’s event: “This is a good chance for us to show we’re back at our best,” he says. His mate, Julien, goes even further: “We want the boys to show they can still beat Brazil and prove the Korea thing was just an accident. They can’t do that in friendlies and European Championship qualifiers.” p>These fans see the FIFA Confederations Cup in a positive light: "It’s a good test in the run-up to the European Championships. If we don’t win the Confederations Cup I don’t see how we can win in Portugal,” says Julien. Clovis agrees: “In recent friendlies we haven’t faced teams of the calibre of Cameroon, Turkey and Brazil. We need to prepare for the European Championship.”
They get more animated when it comes to talking about the players who have been drafted into the French squad. “Santini should pick other players. It’s all very well to call up the guys from Lyon, but I’d like to see some new faces. Jérôme Leroy for example – he’s all heart,” says Clovis.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we get on without Zidane, especially in midfield where Makelele is missing too. Benoît Pedretti has a bright future, but I’m not sure about Ousmane Dabo,” argues Julien.
Whatever the starting eleven, these French fans are looking forward to watching a rejuvenated team playing football with flair on their way to winning the trophy. The fact that some of the other sides have strong local support is seen as a good thing: “The large number of Cameroon and Turkey fans, for example, should add to the event. It won’t be like in 1998, but it’ll still be a laugh!” says Julien.
Clovis is categorical: “The foreign fans will get right behind their teams and that will make for a great atmosphere. This tournament can only be a good thing. We’re going to face some good sides and there should be a party atmosphere in the stands – all we have to do now is play well!”