France have reached the World Cup final four times in the last seven editions of the tournament (1998, 2006, 2018 and 2022), at least twice more than any other nation over the period.
On this day in 1998, France won the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/6Tm5OHfK4s
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) July 12, 2021
France set for their fourth FIFA World Cup Final.No team has a better record since the tournament was expanded to 32 teams.Les Bleus enjoying the most successful period in their history.The evening of 12 July 1998 was a unique and unforgettable one for French football. Flags waved and a nation celebrated as one as Les Bleus became world champions for the first time in their history. Following their World Cup disappointments of the 1980s and their failure to even qualify for Italy 1990 and USA 1994, it was quite an achievement. If, in the hours and minutes leading up to kick-off against Brazil that evening, you had told the fans and players that winning France 1998 would mean never lifting the World Cup Trophy again, many of them would no doubt have accepted such a deal.
What made France so '98? 🎉 pic.twitter.com/fpeglICmfT
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 12, 2019
Much has changed in the last 24 years, however, so much that even the France supporters who celebrated that warm July night would probably not have believed it possible for Les Bleus to kick on to feature in three of the next six World Cup Finals. And who could have blamed them? After all, France had never reached one before 1998. To contest four in the space of 24 years would have been beyond their wildest dreams. With the exception of the disappointing group-phase exits at Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010, France have outperformed everyone on the global stage in the last two decades or so, contesting as many of the last seven Finals as world heavyweights Brazil and Germany combined.
On this day in 2018, Kylian Mbappe became the second youngest goal scorer in a World Cup Final after Pele as France beat Croatia 4-2 to be crowned world champions 👑⚽️
— Express Sports (@IExpressSports) July 15, 2022
While it is hard to pin down exactly what inspired the class of 1998 to such glorious heights, the fact is that they broke off the shackles of the past. The teams that reached the semi-finals at Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986 were no less talented than their successors but were unable to take that last step to success, victims perhaps of a lack of belief. Victory seemed to be the preserve of other nations. That notion was emphatically dispelled by two thumping Zinedine Zidane headers against Brazil. Suddenly, Les Bleus had faith in themselves. And as fear gave way to belief, so they marched on to win UEFA EURO 2000. They roused themselves once more to surprise the world at Germany 2006, with Zidane as the figurehead of a side that was sharp in attack and solid in defence.
— jasfx (@jasfx3) June 11, 2021
It is hard to imagine that France side reaching a second Final in eight years had the breakthrough not been made in 1998. And there can be no doubt either that those achievements have fed the self-belief of the current generation, led by Hugo Lloris, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, a self-belief that has also been nourished by their coach Didier Deschamps, the very embodiment of French success. Though he played no part at Germany 2006, the France boss was one of the architects of that maiden world title, masterminded world title number two at Russia 2018 and has repeated the trick to inspire the run to another Final at Qatar 2022. Like the golden ages of Brazil (1958-70), Italy (1930s) and Germany (1966-90), France have made the early part of the 21st century theirs. There are no signs of them stopping any time soon.