France – Qualification for Italia ’90

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Under legendary manager Michel Hidalgo, France had mesmerised an entire footballing world through their displays in the 1982 World Cup and the 1984 European Championships. They had indeed won the latter, on home soil, beating Spain soundly in the final. After Hidalgo had retired following that triumph, the French FA had put U21 manager Henri Michel in charge. Succeeding Hidalgo was a daunting task, but Michel had led the golden generation of French footballers to bronze medals in the 1986 World Cup. For a second successive global tournament had they bowed out to West Germany in the semi-finals, but with world star Michel Platini among their ranks, they had again won a lot of neutrals over.

France’ decline following the 1986 tournament had happened rapidly. They had lost the backbone of the side which had done so well earlier in the decade, as neither of defender Maxime Bossis nor ace midfielders Alain Giresse and said Platini would feature much since. Only the latter had played some part in the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, where France had failed miserably, finishing well beaten by both the Soviet Union and East Germany. A single win from eight matches, with an abysmal four goals scored, had been their undoing. Manager Michel had some rebuilding to do, but time was not on his side. France came into the 1990 qualification as outsiders, despite the fact that they were first seeds.

Still available to the manager were fine players such as goalkeeper Joël Bats and full-back Manuel Amoros. 24 year old Marseille striker Jean-Pierre Papin, who had scored twice during the 1986 World Cup, was also there. However, they seemed to be desperately short of midfield creativity. Midfield had been France’ greatest level of exuberance earlier. Now, they could need to look to players such as Toulouse’s Gérald Passi (24) and Marseille’s Franck Sauzée (22), both fine prospects, but with considerably less creative guile than some of their predecessors. And who would accompany Papin up front? Stéphane Paille (23) had notched in the 1-1 friendly at home to Czechoslovakia in August, just ahead of the qualification start. Would the Sochaux striker be playing his part now that Yannick Stopyra had retired at international level after a 0-0 friendly in Belfast in spring?

The French were looking to participate in their fourth successive World Cup, but no doubt did manager Michel have plenty of work ahead of him if he were to build a team strong enough to compete. Yugoslavia and Scotland appeared to be the biggest threat to French World Cup participation.


Friendly: France 1-1 Czechoslovakia
Goal: Paille
Line-up: Bats – Sonor, Kastendeuch, Casoni, Amoros (c) – Despeyroux, Sauzée, Passi (Vercruysse 65), Pardo – Papin, Paille
According to reports, this had been a miserable game from a French point of view. They had included three players described as ‘the hopes of French football’ in midfielders Despeyroux and Sauzée (debutant), as well as forward Paille (who’d strike the opening goal), and seen the debut of Pardo, but the fall from grace had apparently hit French football media hard: This team had so much to live up to. They’d failed against a Czechoslovakian team which were without, for the first time since they’d defected, Kubík and Knoflíček. “We’ll need a miracle against Norway”, sounded the cry.

Qualifier 1: France 1-0 Norway
28.09.1988, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Goal: Papin (pen.)
Line-up (4-3-3): Bats – Sonor, Boli (Kastendeuch 64), Casoni, Amoros (c) – Dib, Passi (Paille 77), Sauzée – Bravo, Papin, Xuereb
The French get their win courtesy of a late Papin penalty. They had faced strong resistance from a defensive opponent, which had their minds set on defending their way to a scoreless draw. France had improved after the break, when they created a few openings, and in particular wide forward Xuereb had impressed. They’d gone 4-2-4 late on with the introduction of Paille, something which ultimately paid off: He won a header in the Norwegian area to set Bravo up for a challenge against Giske to win the penalty. Deserved win, although the performance was hardly vintage.

Qualifier 2: Cyprus 1-1 France
22.10.1988, Makáreio Stádio (Nicosia)
Goal: Xuereb
Line-up (4-4-2): Bats – Sonor, Boli, Casoni, Amoros (c) – Bravo, Sauzée, Dib, Passi (Vercruysse 71) – Papin, Xuereb (Paille 80)
Having defeated Norway, France were looking to get off to a sound, albeit expected, start to their World Cup qualification. Michel had picked the same eleven as last time out, although he’d opted for a somewhat more restricted tactical approach. Bravo had moved back into a right-sided midfield position, rendering this a 4-4-2 as opposed to the 4-3-3 last time around. Disappointing throughout, France were left stunned as they conceded a late penalty to their plucky hosts, who until then had not been able to test Bats. Xuereb’s headed opener just before the break would still only mean a single point, and the French players trotted off the pitch in shame upon the full-time whistle.

Res. Friendly: France B 1-0 Yugoslavia B
16. 11.1988, Stade Abbe-Deschamps (Auxerre)
Goals: Micciche
Line-up (4-4-2): Rousset – Ayache (Silvestre h-t), Sonor, Casoni, Di Meco – Passi (Guérin 74), Laurey, Blanc, Vercruysse (Micciche h-t) – Xuereb, Touré.
The French B team is reintroduced under Roger Lemerre after more than six years since their last friendly. Some experienced names here, but also newcomers in Rousset, Di Meco, Laurey and Blanc in the XI.

Qualifier 3: Yugoslavia 3-2 France
19.11.1988, Stadion JNA (Belgrade)
Line-up (

Friendly: Republic of Ireland 0-0 France
Line-up (5-3-2): Bats – Kastendeuch, Sonor, Battiston, Silvestre (Roche 74), Amoros (c) – Blanc (Vercruysse 68), Sauzée, Durand – Paille (Touré h-t), Papin

Qualifier 4: Scotland 2-0 France
08.03.1989, Hampden Park (Glasgow)
Line-up (

Qualifier 5: France 0-0 Yugoslavia
29.04.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Line-up (4-3-3): Bats – Sonor, Boli; Battiston, Amoros (c) – Blanc, Durand (Cocard HT), Sauzée – Xuereb (Deschamps 77′), Paille, Perez.
France finally record their first point under Platini, but the performance is well below expectations. France were struggling in the 1st half as they failed to provide much support for their three forwards, with their midfield effectively canceled out by a compact Yugoslavian side. Direct passes to Paille fail, but intelligent movement from Perez and Xuereb still caused some openings. The change to 4-4-2 in the 2nd half was catastrophic, and France only managed to exert some pressure after reverting to 4-3-3 and introducing Deschamps.

Friendly: Sweden 2-4 France
Goals: Cantona 2, Papin 2
Line-up (4-4-2): Bats – Amoros (c), Sauzée, Le Roux, Di Meco – Ferreri (Blanc 69), Pardo, Deschamps, Perez – Cantona, Papin

Qualifier 6: Norway 1-1 France
05.09.1989, Ullevaal Stadion (Oslo)
Line-up (

Qualifier 7: France 3-0 Scotland
11.10.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Line-up (

Qualifier 8: France 2-0 Cyprus
18.11.1989, Parc des Princes (Paris)
Line-up (


Final position: 3 (out of 5)
Total record: 8 3 3 2 10-7 9
Home record: 4 3 1 0 6-0 7
Away record: 4 0 2 2 4-7 2

Player statistics

Number of players used:
Number of players including unused substitutes:
Ever-presents (720 mins):
Leading goalscorer:
Yellow/red cards:

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28.02.1990 France 2-1 West Germany

28.03.1990 Hungary 1-3 France