Facts & figures: France

Factbox on World Cup qualifiers France: World Cup record:

Previous appearances in finals: 12

Best performance: Winners 1998

Runners-up: 2006

Coach: Raymond Domenech. An uncompromising defender with limited skills and eight caps for France, Domenech replaced Jacques Santini after France's disappointing Euro 2004 campaign. Has never won a title as coach despite a long spell with France's Under-21 side, but guided France to the 2006 World Cup final. Under heavy criticism since the Euro 2008 flop. A poor qualifying campaign and a controversial play-off win over Ireland did nothing to boost his popularity.

Key players:

Thierry Henry (Barcelona). Age: 32. Striker

France's most prolific striker with 51 goals from 117 caps and the team's captain, Henry remains a dangerous marksman, although he is not quite the player he was for France and Arsenal in his prime. The main question is whether he will have recovered from the scandal sparked by his handball in the playoff against Ireland.

Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich). Age: 26. Forward or midfielder

Energetic player with amazing skills who burst into the limelight at the 2006 World Cup and has matured to become one of the world's top players. Often used as a winger by Domenech but happy to take over the playmaking duties. Has been hampered by a string of injuries and was sorely missed in the latter stages of France's dismal qualifying campaign.

Yoann Gourcuff (Girondins Bordeaux). Age: 23. Midfielder

A classy playmaker with unique skills, vision and game intelligence, not unlike the great Zinedine Zidane. Gourcuff is inspirational when on song but has sometimes looked lost on the pitch when France needed him most, notably during the playoff against Ireland. France's World Cup performance will much depend on how he fares on the pitches of South Africa.

FIFA world ranking November 2009: 7

How they qualified: France needed an infamous play-off win against Ireland to scrape through after a series of lacklustre displays. Put themselves in trouble by starting off with a shock 3-1 defeat in Austria and kept struggling after that despite featuring in a seemingly manageable group.

Prospects: Their poor qualifying campaign does not mean they should be ruled out. They have enough talent to intimidate anybody, providing their best players are fully fit and they can put their act together as a team, which was hardly ever the case in qualifying.