French president targets group success
Francois Hollande has set his sights for France at next summer’s World Cup low, saying it “would be good” for them to progress through the group stage.
French president Hollande was speaking on a visit to host nation Brazil, where France have been drawn in Group E alongside Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador.
Didier Deschamps' men will have high hopes of reaching the knockout stages and, should they win the group, will play their last 16 encounter in the capital Brasilia.
"It would already be good that they arrive in Brasilia," the French head of state said. "That would mean that they have got through the group stage."
France play their opening game of the tournament against outsiders Honduras on June 15 before taking on Switzerland five days later.
And although Les Bleus had to get through the playoffs while Switzerland clinched their place automatically, Swiss defender Stephane Lichtsteiner told RMC he believed France had the stronger side.
"We're in a group in which we can both go through," the Juventus full-back explained. "Of course France are favourites to top the group. But we're not going to make it easy for them, even if we're only the little Swiss.
“I hope we'll both go through, but France won't necessarily finish as group winners. France have super players, a very good coach. But I'm focused on our team, and we want to beat everyone."
Though that encounter with the Swiss appears to be France's most testing, Deschamps told iTele on Thursday that the group opener would be the most significant.
"Every competitor must hate defeat. But you grow more in defeat than in victory,” he said. “We can't just approach the World Cup light-heartedly, we have to go there with a lot of ambition.
“The logical and legitimate objectives are the same: get through the group and qualify for the last 16. With the group we have, we have more of a chance on paper. But since 2002, we've only won one group-stage game in a tournament.
“In football, you have to show your superiority on the pitch. We have to win the first game against Honduras as that would put us in an ideal position."
Former Brazil international Juninho Pernambucano said he expected Deschamps' side to get better as the tournament wore on, explaining: "Given their group, they'll manage to go through.
“After that, they'll get stronger, just as they did in 2006. They didn't start well, and reached the final. Perhaps there's less individual talent [now], but I have faith in them."