The purpose of this blog is to chart the rise to (hopefully) Champions League glory, but bear with me while I talk you through my first season as France manager.
Our qualifying group for the World Cup looks, on paper, to be a relatively simple one – I mean, for French standards; as a Scotland fan, I’d be running scared.
- Czech Republic
First up, in early 2025 are a home tie against Slovakia, shortly followed by a trip to Czech Republic.
Both teams are dispatched 2-0, with Antoine Griezmann and Bruno Carriere scoring in a nervy win against Slovakia; and Kylian Mbappé scoring a double in a much more straightforward victory against Czech Republic.
A couple of friendlies later, we head to Canada and the Confederations Cup.
Our Group consists of Ivory Coast, New Zealand and Canada – honestly, this manager of France stuff is easy – and we progress to the Semi Final stage after winning 1-0, 4-0 and 2-0 respectively. Griezmann and Mbappé are the stars of the group stage and score a couple of goals each across the three matches.
The Semi-Final against Argentina is a nervy one – specifically because one of those aforementioned friendlies was against them, and they pumped us 4-0 – and it goes down to the wire. 0-0 after 90 minutes, 0-0 after 120 minutes, we head to penalties. Where we are victorious!
And so, a final against Portugal – rated #1 in the World (we’re rated #6) – gives us a chance at the trophy, only the second of my managerial career.
But it’s not to be. It’s an incredibly tight match, but our discipline’s all over the shop, and we go down 2-1 to a Portuguese side managed by Jose Mourinho. I can’t really argue with that.
After that, it’s back to the grimy reality of World Cup qualification. The team might be down, but they’re not showing it.
A 6-0 win against Estonia (Paul Pogba 2, Kurt Zouma, Griezmann, Francis Coquelin, Kingsley Coman), is followed up by a 3-0 win (Heidi Camus, Griezmann, Anthony Martial) in the Millennium Stadium against Wales.
It’s the perfect tonic, and we’re all setup for the last four games of qualification.