France begin their quest to reclaim the world title on 13 June when they kick off their 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign against near neighbours Switzerland . The 53,000 fans inside Stuttgart's Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion should be treated to a thrilling spectacle as both sides look to impose their authority on a group from which they are both widely tipped to progress.
View the Germany 2006 match schedule
Colours for the game
France: blue shirt, blue shorts, blue socks
Switzerland: white shirt, white shorts, white socks
France coach Raymond Domenech's squad selection was among the most surprising as it involved the summoning of newcomers Pascal Chimbonda and Franck Ribery as a reward for their excellent form over the season. His opposite number, Switzerland's Kobi Kuhn, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with the inclusion of the youthful Johan Djourou and inexperienced Blerim Dzemaili.
How they qualified
Having also been paired together in Group 4 of the European Zone qualifying competition, both teams endured a dramatic qualifying campaign. The group was only decided on the final matchday with Les Bleus winning 4-0 against Cyprus to claim top spot, two points ahead of the Swiss, who secured a play-off berth by holding the Republic of Ireland to a goalless draw in Dublin. The Swiss then overcame a dangerous Turkey side on away goals over two legs to join the French in Germany.
France and Switzerland have met 35 times (four times in the last three years), with Les Bleus holding a slight advantage with 15 victories, 12 defeats and eight draws.
Of the two teams, France boast a superior record at the FIFA World Cup. Winners on home soil in 1998, the French have also reached three semi-finals (1958, 1982 and 1986) in 11 tournaments. However, the Swiss can also look back on a proud record in their seven tournaments, with three quarter-final appearances (1934, 1938 and 1954) to their name. Whatever the result on 13 June, there are likely to be goals on the agenda, with the Nati having conceded at least once in all 22 of their previous FIFA World Cup matches.
As direct rivals for qualification, the two teams will certainly be out to seize the initiative in the group. The strikers could make all the difference, with Thierry Henry, coming off the back of a UEFA Champions League final and an outstanding season with Arsenal (27 goals) generally regarded as France's main weapon. That said, Henry has not always been as effective for his country as he has been for the Gunners.
Alexander Frei is quite the opposite. The Rennes centre-forward has often been the hero for the Nati and, while his club season may have been blighted by injury, that has done little to dampen his eagerness to represent his nation. "I'm going to Germany not to play, but to win," he declared recently.
The head-to-head brings together two diametrically opposed coaches. While Switzerland's Kuhn rarely comes in for criticism, Domenech polarises opinions. His every appearance is scrutinised, and each decision debated. The former U-21 team coach knows that his position is on the line at Germany 2006. By contrast, Kuhn, like his team, can enjoy the tournament without undue pressure, as Helvetian hopes are fixed firmly on the UEFA European Championship on home soil in 2008.