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Can France Produce Another Zinedine Zidane?

by Jitin Dhawan
Jan 08, 2014 8:21 PM EST



Didier Deschamps, France’s 1998 World Cup winning captain, is the current coach of the French National Team. He has been a cautious manager with a heavy emphasis on defence.

Hugo Lloris is France's skipper and set to be one of the top keepers in Brazil. It should be noted that France’s younger generations have acquired a taste for success in recent times, lifting the FIFA U-20 World Cup and reaching the final of the UEFA European U-19 Championship.  Franck Ribery is their star player and the contender for the Ballon d’Or alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His glittering wing play has helped Bayern Munich win the Champions League and three Bundesliga titles. He was the UEFA’s Player of the year in 2012-13.

The players to watch out for are Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane . The two 20-year-olds play for Juventus and Real Madrid, respectively. Pogba, the powerful and silky Juventus midfielder, has shown such composure and a comfortable grasp on passing at his age whereas Varane, the Real Madrid defender, also radiated a strong sense of serious determination and was calm and secure in the game against Ukraine.

Pogba is the complete central midfielder. Strong defensively, strong on the front foot; Pogba would slot nicely into the centre of almost any midfield from the outset. He is a great player that represents the future of France. Pogba has revealed he dreamt of playing for Arsenal or Barcelona as a child, but insists he is happy to stay at Juventus. He is being humble as he says that he started from the bottom and has the will to put his talent into action. 

On the other hand, Varane is fulfilling the rich promise he showed in his teenage years. Described as a key member of the France team by national coach Deschamps despite having only played twice for his country, the classy 20-year-old central defender seems set for an outstanding career. Varane is young, has good defending statistics, is fast enough and may be one of the best defenders in the near future. 

The Real Madrid centre back was voted by fans into Marca's iconic 'Best Foreign Eleven' in the entirety of Real Madrid history due to his ever present tackles and MOTD performances. Physically massive for a footballer at 6-foot-3 inches, and also with his heading and jumping statistics rated very highly, the Frenchman will be very hard for any striker to beat in the air.  His defensive attributes are great, but his quality passing – long or short – is perhaps the best and he believes that Lilian Thuram is his role model.

But a big question is whether any one of the two can fill the vacant space left by Zidane. I personally think that they will not be able to become Zidane as every player has his own style. Players like Zidane, Maradona and Pele are once in a generation players.

Players can copy them but cannot be them. The two headed goals scored by Zidane in the 1998 World Cup finals at State de France are still remembered all over the world, and Maradona, the Argentinean footballer, scored perhaps the greatest goal ever, running half the length of the field, past multiple defenders, to convert during the quarter final against hated rival, England during the 1986 World Cup.

These memories are embedded in the mind of millions of viewers and fans around the world. I think both these young players of France are going to be masters in the field but they have to have their own style. They will attack, defend and score a lot of goals but in their own style. France can win next years World Cup if they play as a team but it won’t be easy as Brazil are the firm favourites and defeating them on their home turf would need a massive effort.

France are in Group E with Ecuador, Honduras and Switzerland. The match with Switzerland will be tight while the remaining two games should be a cakewalk for a team like France. Zidane gave a statement that a tough draw would be good for France, but the opposite has happened as they have got an easy draw. I once again say that France can win the World Cup but they have to play as a team and players like Pogba and Varane have to perform to more than their best of ability that is they have to strike the opposition at the right time so that their names can be written in the history as of legends like Zidane.

       Now have a look at the achievements of the player I have been talking all this while:

  • Name: Zinedine Yazid Zidane
  • Nationality: French
  • Date and Place of Birth: June 23, 1972 in Marseille, France
  • Position: Playmaker
  • Clubs: Cannes (1988-1992), Bordeaux (1992-1996), Juventus (1996-2001), Real Madrid (2001-2006)
  • International Career: 1994-2006 (108 caps, 31 goals)

Known for his crisp passing and dribbling, he is regarded as one of soccer's all-time greats. In addition to promoting a slew of sports products, Zidane is also Christian Dior's first male model.

On the international stage he won 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000 with France. He also won the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, and the Ballon D'Or once. Both France and Algeria consider Zidane a citizen, but he was ineligible to play for the Algerian national team.

Two years after the World Cup victory in 1998, France won Euro 2000, becoming the first team to hold both the World Cup and the European Championship since West Germany in 1974. Zidane finished with two goals, a memorable free kick against Spain in the quarter final and the goal in the semi final against Portugal, and was named player of the tournament by UEFA.

In 2001, Zidane signed with Spanish club Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee of more than £46 million . The investment of Real Madrid paid rich dividends, as it helped them win the coveted UEFA Champions League title in his first season and a La Liga title the next year.

France entered the 2002 World Cup as favourites but a thigh injury prevented him from playing the first two matches and participated in the third match without being fully fit but could not prevent France from getting eliminated in the group stage. After France’s elimination in the quarter finals in Euro 2004 to Greece he announced his retirement from international football.

He came out of retirement for the 2006 World Cup captaining France into the final against Italy and created history not by winning the cup but by headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

Zidane's last professional game ended with a red card. What happened on the field just 10 minutes before the final whistle in the final of the World Cup was a seen to be believed. He came, he conquered almost every title in the world and was about to create history but committed an error only to save the pride of the family which is also very important especially his Mother. Mothers are sacred for everybody. To me, he is a man who played for the country, won for the country and stood for the self respect of his family.