Les Bleus

Franck Ribéry ruled out of the World Cup for France

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Didier Deschamps has confirmed that Franck Ribéry will miss the 2014 World Cup. The Bayern Munich winger becomes the latest in a long list of players ruled out due to injury.

Earlier today, it seemed as though Ribéry would be able to make it to Brazil. Struggling with a back problem, he’d been training separately from the rest of the France squad. On Friday morning, he practiced with the team for the first time.

However, in that training session, Ribéry’s injury grew worse: “An MRI scan confirmed the sudden worsening of his condition and led the medical staff to conclude his inability to train and play,” said a France Football Federation statement.

The 31-year-old earned his first senior cap for les bleus in 2006, and has since been capped 80 times, scoring 16 goals in the process. He was part of the 2006 World Cup squad that made it to the final, as well as the 2010 squad that sorely disappointed in South Africa.

In addition to Ribéry, Lyon midfielder Clément Grenier has also been ruled out with injury. Deschamps will turn to his seven-man replacement list, and it is believed he will select Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin to replace Grenier and Montpellier’s Rémy Cabella for Ribéry.

The French national team’s plane is…um…creepy

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Everybody knows when someone gets a tattoo of someone else’s face, it has serious potential to go horribly wrong and look terribly creepy.

Apparently, the same goes for airplane art.

The French national team announces its presence when flying into an airport, with a flashy plane that boasts plenty of blue for Les Bleus as well as the images of a number of the team’s star players.

The text came out nicely, as the plane reads “Equipe de France Football” across the top along with “Bleus” and a nice combination of blue and white.

Unfortunately, the faces didn’t exactly come out perfectly, and as a result, intimidating stares and menacing game faces turned into creepy mug shots and disturbing stares.

One can make out the images of Franck Ribery near the wing, with his head somewhat distorted, as well as Karim Benzema with a distorted stare, and a really scary image of Mamadou Sakho yelling, a faint yet large portrait of Raphael Varane looking deep into your soul, and topped off with Yohan Cabaye towards the front looking – if nothing else – very confused.

Hopefully the squad doesn’t play as distorted as they appear, or their time in Brazil will be shorter than anticipated.  Didier Deschamps hopefully will ask for a new coat of paint.

Here’s a good look at the plane, courtesy of French newspaper L’Equipe:

You can click the link above for a larger version of the video to get a better look at the faces.

French goalkeeper will miss World Cup with devastating injury

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French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda will miss out on a trip to Brazil, thanks to a devastating injury suffered on Saturday night.

The Marseille ‘keeper was withdrawn after 23 minutes on Saturday, following a collision with Guingamp striker Mustapha Yatabare. Marseille went on to win 1-0 thanks to a strike from Andre Ayew, but the victory must have seemed rather hollow.

Later reports revealed that Mandanda cracked his vertebrae and suffered a cervical sprain. He will need to wear a neck brace for three weeks, and then spend a few more weeks in physiotherapy.

And with the World Cup just four weeks away, that means the 27-year-old will not be representing France this year. He was named on Didier Deschamps’ roster for Brazil, along with fellow goalkeepers Hugo Lloris, at Tottenham, and Mickael Landreau, at Bastia. His place is now likely to be taken by Stephane Ruffier, currently at Saint-Étienne.

Mandanda has represented France 16 times, and began the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign as their first choice goalkeeper. By the time South Africa rolled around, the job had gone to Hugo Lloris, and Mandanda did not appear in any of France’s three matches in the 2010 tournament. He has been at Marseille since 2007, and is currently captain of the Ligue 1 side.

Is France falling apart already, with the World Cup still weeks away?

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France made a decent showing in World Cup qualifying. Sure, they were forced into a playoff with Ukraine, but after being drawn into a group with Spain, you almost expect to come in second. Their side looked revived, and the country started to dream of a strong national team once more.

But will those dreams once again be discarded? Will France fall apart before they even get on the plane to Brazil?

The last time the World Cup came around, France did a spectacular job of falling apart. Les Bleus were in open rebellion against their manager, refusing to train after Raymond Domenech expelled Nicolas Anelka from the squad. Earlier attempts at team bonding enforced by Domenech, including mountain biking and dune-buggy racing, had failed miserably. The cracks forming between the teammates grew even more sharply defined as the spotlight in South Africa grew brighter.

Of course, their play suffered. After a draw with Uruguay and defeats to both Mexico and South Africa, France finished last in their group. Les Bleus were on their way home.

France are now under the leadership of Didier Deschamps, who took over after Laurent Blanc took the team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. Deschamps seems to want to avoid making the same mistakes as Domenech, which may be why he left Samir Nasri out of his World Cup roster. Nasri had a wonderful season at Manchester City, but according to Deschamps, his behavior could weaken team spirit during the time spent in Brazil.

But France are already suffering from the fallout. After Nasri’s girlfriend insulted Deschamps on Twitter, throwing plenty of ugly curses his way, the French coach elected to file a lawsuit against her, claiming “public insult”. The French Football Federation also released a statement, backing Deschamps.

A minor blip, perhaps. After all, Nasri isn’t included in the squad, and there’s no evidence that his teammates are set to rebel over the slight (Nasri was also not part of the 2010 squad). But is this a preview of what is to come from France this time around? Will the coach attempt to crack down, prompting public blowouts and attracting media attention? Will both the coach and the players be distracted, once again, by antics off the pitch?

Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras certainly hope so.