Which were the most thrilling encounters in the football history of France? Was it their iconic clashes with Italy, or perhaps Germany?
How about both?
Check out France’s top five key matches over the years:
France–West Germany, World Cup 1958
Having received a beating at the hands of Brazil in the semifinal, 5-2, France were expected to come out against defending champions West Germany in a match for third place with dampened spirits.
But France had Just one match-changer: Just Fontaine.
He bagged four goals that match.
West Germany never came back. After France had taken the lead, they struggled to 1-1 but by the 80th minute were already 5-2 down. The rest was history. The match finished 6-3.
Fotaine scored 15 goals in five matches in this tournament, but one man’s show overshadowed everything else in this tournament: Pele.
France-Brazil, World Cup 1986
This thrilling encounter in the Mexican heat at the mystic Aztec Stadium saw France and Brazil battle for a spot in the semifinal.
Both nations waved about their talismans: Socrates for Brazil and Michelle Platini for France. It was a battle of individual wills as much as it was a team clash.
France seized control at first with Platini and midfield partner Giresse sending the Brazilians chasing after their well-executed passes. Running was out of the question in this heat, so the Brazilians retracted and waited.
The Samba Kings didn’t have to wait for long. Socrates picked up a ball in midfield and with a series of one-twos cut the French defense in ribbons for Brazil’s first goal.
But luck was on France’s side.
Minutes before half time, a rebounded cross from Rochetau from Brazil’s left side, their Achilles heel, reached Platini on the far post. He converted with ease for 1-1.
Enraged, the Brazilians surged forward and came near taking the lead again with Careca shooting past goalkeeper Joel Bats only to find the post.
In the second half Brazil’s insistence backed by terrifying incisive passes by Socrates continued. One such occasion led to a penalty but keeper Bats saved it. Time ran out and the two clubs gathered under the scorching sun to decide the match on penalties.
As is often the case, the two best players on the pitch, Socrates and Platini missed their penalties. But it was Julio Ceasar who gifted France with the win. His shot rebounded off the post.
The result, 4-3 on penalties, saw France proceed to the semifinals of the 1986 World Cup.
France finished third this World Cup, only because a certain short Argentinean was taking the world by storm.
France–Italy, World cup 1986
In the round of 16 in that same World Cup ‘86, France faced the defending champions Italy—a side they had never defeated before.
Italy had visibly taken a slump since their last world tournament, drawing Bulgaria in the groups.
On the day, it seemed Italy hadn’t shown up for the fixture. Platini finished a brilliant passing show by flipping the ball over the Italian goalkeeper. He weaved his magic in the second goal too soon after.
The flawless victory moved France into the quarterfinals to play Brazil.
France–Brazil, World Cup 1998
It was their newly build Stade de France where the French national team would make their fortress in 1998.
Their star-packed squad had done a terrific job to reach the final but there waited four-time World Cup winner Brazil bragging players such as Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu and Roberto Carlos.
Brazil was plagued by fitness problems and doubts before the match, most notably with their star man Ronaldo. Les Blues took full advantage of that.
Zinedine Zdiane towered above everyone else to open the score early in the first half. He then just clicked on the replay button, scoring a similar goal before the tick of half time.
Brazil then awoke to pile pressure, missing two chances, first when Bebeto’s shot was deflected on the goal line by Marcel Dessailly and then earning the defender his second yellow card in the 68th minute.
But 10-man France struck their finishing blow in injury time. Three Arsenal men were involved: Pires to Vieira to Petit who directed the ball comfortably in the corner for the classic 3-0.
It was an astounding demonstration of power by Les Blues who were crowned World Champions for the first time in their history.
France–West Germany, World Cup 1982
The World Cup semifinal in 1982 against West Germany was a thing of Hollywood: goals, drama, twists, horror and a villain.
The Deutsche Maschine opened the score courtesy of the suspiciously French sounding Pierre Littbarski, but there was screeching from a few cogs inside The Machine.
First, Michelle Platini, overcame the Medusa gaze of German keeper Harald Shumacher from a penalty for 1-1.
Then a horrific incident blighted the atmosphere. Patrick Battiston received a heavy hit by the goalkeeper onrushing like his German compatriot Formula One driver with same surname.
Battiston lost two teeth and slipped in a coma from the hit while Schumacher even dared to taunt the oppositional fans afterwards. Battison recovered later on, but the goalkeeper turned into a most hated iconic villain.
The mounting pressure was discharged in extra time.
Two minutes into it Marius Tresor volleyed in for a goal advantage. Six minutes later, Giresse’s piledriver seemed to put things out of reach for the Germans.
This, however, only angered Deutsche Maschine.
Rummenigge flicked the ball past the keeper and still in the midst of celebration Klaus Fisher stunned the French with a spectacular over-head kick for 3-3.
Karma is a bitch but on that day it was nowhere to be seen. Schumacher parried a shot in the penalty shoot-out and awarded his team the ticket for the final.
France-Italy, Euro 2000
The two rivaling countries were at it again in the Euro 2000 final.
The tactical outplaying only hid a deeper spike threatening to sting at any minute. While both teams had limited chances for most of the match, the interest was kept by this undercurrent of unpredictability.
It took a surprising volley by Thierry Henry from a narrow angle to find the post that reminded us of that.
But it was Italy who struck their first real blow.
Francesco Totti’s subtle back-heel pass freed Gianluca Pessotto on the right. He crossed the ball to Delveccio who flicked home for 1-0. Four minutes later Alessandro Del Piero’s shot licked the outside of Fabian Barthez’s left post.
With time ticking away the atmosphere seemed to gain a greyer hue for the French. The pressure seemed to accumulate. And all of it led to one moment: Sylvain Wiltord’s moment.
In the 94th minute, he unleashed a thunderous left-footed shot which pushed the match into extra time where the Golden Goal rule would decide the new champion.
And then David Trezaguet received a low cross from the left and bombed the ball into the upper corner before the disbelieving Italians.
The golden goal gave France its golden comeback to become the first team to hold both the World Cup and the European cup.