So now, after a clinical 3-0 defeat of Honduras, fans of Les Bleus could be daring to dream again as France take on neighbours Switzerland in the second Group E game on Friday.
The dominant display against Honduras on Sunday featured a resurgence of flair and free-flowing football that was non-existent in a disastrous South Africa campaign in 2010.
Four years ago the players mutinied against coach Raymond Domenech and returned home in disgrace. But Didier Deschamps has bult a more unified squad and even though Franck Ribery is out injured, Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud offer a dangerous attacking threat.
The Swiss, who grabbed a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ecuador in their first game, are likely to provide a sterner test, especially as the winner on Friday should make the second round.
With World Cup goals flying in across Brazil and Benzema looking in fine fettle, fans descending on Salvador`s Fonte Nova arena might well expect another goal fest, although a quick look at recent encounters suggests otherwise.
The last three matches between the two countries have ended in draws with a total of only two goals. France won the two games prior to that and Switzerland have to go back to 1992 for their last win.
But the Swiss have made great strides in recent years, their prospects boosted by a more exciting crop of players largely playing in Europe`s top leagues, such as hard tackling captain Gokhan Inler and the skilful Xherdan Shaqiri.
Deschamps is unlikely to tinker much with his side, with the same back four of Mathieu Debuchy, Raphael Varane, Mamadou Sakho and Patrice Evra likely to start. His big decision will come on the left of midfield.
Antoine Griezmann started against Honduras with the excellent Benzema up front, but Deschamps could be tempted to move Benzema out to the left and bring in Giroud up front to add more height and power to the side.
Whoever gets the nod will have an eye on the history books, since the next goal will be France`s 100th at a World Cup.
Haris Seferovic, Switzerland`s hero in the first match after grabbing a 93rd minute winner, said France`s attacking talents could be their downfall.
“There will surely be more space (than versus Ecuador) because the French like to play more. They are strong in attack, but it may be their weakness to want to attack too much,” he said.
Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who like Deschamps has a target of reaching the last 16 in Brazil, must decide whether to shuffle his front line after substitute forwards Admir Mehmedi and Seferovic grabbed both their goals against Ecuador.
The pair are vying to start in place of Josip Drmic.
Key Players – Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri and France’s Karim Benzema
While Ricardo Rodriguez stole the show against Ecuador on Sunday, it can be argued that Didier Deschamps will not allow his side to give the young Wolfsburg defender the freedom that he had against Ecuador, with Mathieu Debuchy, Valbuena and Paul Pogba all operating down that right hand side.
Ottmar Hitzfeld will look upon Xherdan Shaqiri to provide the creativity for the Swiss against France, who will hopefully look to find space between the lines of where Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi operate.
The Bayern Munich player attempted the most dribbles for Switzerland (3), while attempting the most shots (5) and averaged a WhoScored.com rating of 7.7 – second only to Ricardo Rodriguez who assisted two goals for Switzerland.
Shaqiri looks to be the most direct player for Switzerland, who will look to drive at the defence and put the likes of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho on the back foot.
France’s number 10, Karim Benzema, led the way for his side against Honduras on Sunday – bagging two goals and a man of the match performance, while some pundits likened the Real Madrid striker to have an effect like Zinedine Zidane (really?), Benzema will look to keep his feet on the ground, and get France through to the last 16 by topping the group.
Karim Benzema had over a third of France’s total shots (7/20) – scoring two goals, and averaged a WhoScored.com rating of 8.9.
With Franck Ribery missing through injury, former players like Patrick Viera and Thierry Henry, currently pundits at the ITV and BBC respectively, stated France needed a talisman, a player to look up to when the game ins’t going their way – it seems Karim Benzema will look to pick up this burden.
Prediction and predicted line-up
France 3-1 Switzerland
The middle may be fairly congested in this match between Switzerland and France, so width will be crucial to both sides if either side are to record a win to take them through to the next round. Evra and Debuchy will need to push up if Griezmann and Valbuena cut inside. Although the French full-backs will have to be wary of Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner who will look to provide as much width as they can