France entered Euro 2000, which was co-hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands, as the reigning World Champions and under pressure to back that up with another strong performance.
Finishing second in their group behind the Dutch, Les Bleus overcame Spain in the quarter-finals and then outlasted Portugal 2-1 after extra-time to set-up a decider against Italy.
Trailing 1-0 heading into injury time and with Italian fans ready to celebrate, Sylvain Wiltord scored with seconds remaining before David Trezeguet's golden goal secured the trophy.
So, where are those French heroes now?
Written by Shanjayan Muniappan, Kenneth Tan and Dhaliwal AS
After his retirement from football in 2007, the French goalkeeper went from living between the sticks to living on the edge as a motorsport driver.
The former Manchester United and Marseille custodian can now be found at race tracks sporting a helmet and gear. On top of his success in football, the 44-year-old won the French racing series in 2013, known as France’s FFSA GT.
Then 42, the Frenchman and co-driver Morgan Moulin-Traffort secured the trophy by taking fifth and eighth-placed finishes in the competition's last two races in Marseille.
In 2014, Barthez took part in the Le Mans 24 hours race, one of the most prestigious automobile events in the world where entrants have to balance speed with the cars' ability to last for 24 hours without sustaining mechanical damage.
Barthez finished 29th with his co-driver in a race that included former F1 driver Mark Webber. In June, Barthez will be taking part in the same race again, while hoping France emulate the footballing success he had back in 2000. – SM
One of the classiest defenders of his generation, Thuram represented the national team 142 times – which makes him the most capped player in the history of Les Bleus.
He also played in the top-flight in France, Italy and Spain for Parma, Juventus and Barcelona respectively over a span of 15 years.
Retiring in 2008 due to a hereditary heart defect, he embarked on a mission to combat racism in football, establishing the Lilian Thuram Foundation, Education Against Racism.
He has been vocal on his views on many issues back in France, famously taking part in demonstrations in favour of same-sex marriage and showing support for same-sex couples to adopt children three years ago.
The UNICEF ambassador has also written a book named Mes Etoiles Noires (My Black Stars) and published a comic book named Notre Histoire (Our History) with Jean-Christopher Camus and Sam Garcia. – KT
Nicknamed 'The Rock', he is considered one of the most accomplished defenders of his generation.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Desailly completed a collection of the game’s biggest titles before retiring, winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with France, plus the Champions League with both Marseilles (1993) and AC Milan (1994).
The former France captain made headlines in Malaysia when he applied for the national team coaching job in 2014 following the departure of K. Rajagobal.
However, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) thought he was too inexperienced and picked former international Dollah Salleh instead, which turned out to be a disastrous decision.
Once named by Pele in the FIFA 100 as one of the world’s greatest living players, Desailly was also considered for Ghana’s coach.
Desailly, who was made Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d'honneur after the World Cup triumph in 1998, is now a pundit for several broadcasters and also a supporter of 1GOAL Education for All and Charity OrphanAid Africa. – DA
Defending against world-class strikers back in 2000, Laurent Blanc is now winning back-to-back Ligue 1 titles with Paris Saint-Germain.
Playing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Barcelona, Inter Milan and Manchester United, Blanc started his managerial career in 2007 with Bordeaux, where he won the league title in 2009.
In 2012, he was at the helm when France were defeated by Ukraine in the quarter-finals of that year’s European Championship. He then resigned and took over PSG and has been the main man there ever since.
Although he has won consecutive league titles with the financial powerhouse, his position is under jeopardy after failing to deliver a Champions League trophy to the Parc des Princes and he could be replaced in the summer. – SM
Not the tallest of players at 1.69m, Lizarazu more than made up for that with his tenacity in defence and ability to either whip in a wicked cross or bend a swerving shot into the top corner with his classy left peg.
He is one of 39 players in the history of the sport to have ever won at least one domestic championship, a continental title at club level, a continental win with his country and the World Cup.
Hanging up his boots in 2006, Lizarazu remained active – trying his hand at surfing but ultimately excelling in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Picking up the sport in 2008, he took part in the European Brazilian jiu-jitsu Open in Lisbon, Portugal just a year later and eventually finished champion in the Blue Belt senior tournament for lightweights.
The 46-year-old also does work in the French football media once in a while and is reportedly keen on a return to football in a coaching capacity in the future. – KT
The fifth time is a charm! Vieira was the latest heavyweight to attempt Lionel Messi’s behind-the-goal trick shot that the Argentine nailed recently.
New York City FC coach Vieira managed to spin the ball into the net from several metres behind the goal line on his fifth attempt during a training session last month.
Part of France’s 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winning sides, the 40-year-old may not be quite as talented as Messi, but in his prime the former Arsenal captain was an excellent tackler and a tactically intelligent midfielder, gifted with good ball skills, distribution and vision.
In 2007, The Times placed him at No.33 in their list of the 50 hardest footballers in history. After his retirement in 2011, Vieira had a coaching stint with Manchester City’s youth and reserve sides before moving to New York.
Born in Dakar, Vieira visited Senegal two years ago and assisted in setting up an academy, which has 16 pitches, medical facilities and a training centre, financed by Manchester City. – DA
Sixteen years ago, he lifted the Euro trophy as a player and now, the whole of France will be cheering for Didier Deschamps as the current France manager rallies his troops to win the trophy for the host nation.
The 47-year-old has a sizeable task ahead of him as France have not won a major title since that 2000 triumph.
However, the current French squad has bags of talent, boasting the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet – who will certainly help Deschamps in his bid for the trophy.
Apart from the Karim Benzema saga, with the Real Madrid striker facing allegations of a blackmail attempt, the current France squad isn’t heavily involved in drama unlike the one Raymond Domenech managed back in 2010.
Even the Benzema saga has been resolved after the striker announced that he will not be participating in this year’s Euro.
Having had managerial experiences with Juventus, Marseille and Monaco, Deschamps has enough experience to potentially lead Les Bleus to victory this year.– SM
Renowned for his elegance, vision and technique, Zidane is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of football.
It was his two first-half goals in the final against Brazil that helped Les Bleus pick up the 1998 World Cup, with Emmanuel Petit adding a late third, and Zidane went on to win the UEFA Player of the Tournament award in the victorious Euro 2000 campaign.
Ending his career after that infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final defeat, Zidane returned to football three years later in 2009 as advisor to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.
He then assisted Carlo Ancelotti in the club’s successful 2013-14 campaign, when they won the Champions League and Copa Del Rey.
After two years coaching their B team, the 43-year-old took over Los Merengues at the start of 2016 after Rafa Benitez’s dismissal.
He kick-started his reign with a 5-0 home victory over Deportivo La Coruna and has not looked back since – with the club still within reach of achieving a La Liga and Champions League double, at the time of writing. – KT
Djorkaeff has a dream to one day coach the national team of Armenia. Understandably, the 48-year-old is proud of the Armenian roots on his mother's side and he is now an ambassador of the country.
The Djorkaeff family has been well represented in football. His father Jean was a French international defender from 1964-1972 while his brother Micha played in some lower leagues throughout Europe.
His 19-year-old son Oan could also continue the family tradition and emulate his grandfather and father by representing France in the near future. The teenager currently plays for Ligue II side Evian Thonon Gaillard FC.
Djorkaeff runs the Youri Djorkaeff Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing coaching programmes in New York City.
Four years ago, he also hosted the ‘Phone-a-thon for Armenia’ charity for the construction of community centres in Nagorno Karabakh. Part of the proceeds were used for agricultural development in Armenia's Tavush Region.
The retired forward is also an avid singer, once releasing a single called “Vivre dans Ta Lumière", which means "Living in Your Light". – DA
During his glittering career, the Frenchman that needs no introduction used to score goals for fun – be it volleys, bicycle kicks or a cheeky back heel.
Now, he is usually seen as a pundit for Sky, although that could be a temporary ordeal as he is finishing up his coaching badges.
The former Barcelona player and Arsenal legend, ending his time in London as the Gunners’ all-time leading scorer, could soon be prowling the touchlines, having retired in 2014.
It would be too early for the 38-year-old to take over from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, but having spent his best years in North London, it is written in the scripts for Henry to manage the club one day, once he has his badges and the necessary experience.
But whatever he does from now, he will always be fondly remembered as one of the greatest talents in Arsenal's long and storied history and a key member of France's golden generation. – SM
Coming through the youth ranks at Bordeaux with future international teammates like Lizarazu and Zidane, Dugarry was a real football journeyman – having played in Italy, Spain, England and even Qatar.
He would represent his country with distinction, winning the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000 and 2001 Confederations Cup with France.
One of his best achievements at club level was helping Birmingham City stay in the English top-flight after a successful half-season loan spell where he scored five goals in 15 appearances – a feat that led to him being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
Since retiring in 2005, he has worked as a high-profile pundit and commentator for French television channel Canal Plus – often causing controversy for his biased opinions towards the clubs he represented.
Commentating on the Ligue 1 clash between his old club Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain back in February, the 44-year-old instinctively commented “it’s (the ball’s) ours” when the ball went out of play after a tussle between Lassana Diarra and David Luiz.
He now resides in Bordeaux, where he reportedly owns a popular bar. – KT
The 41-year-old Wiltord hinted recently he could return to professional football, four years after he hung up his boots.
The winger, who won 92 caps for France, however, has not yet announced where he wants to make his return.
Best remembered for being part of Arsenal’s undefeated run in the 2003-04 Premier League season, Wiltord last year participated in television programme ‘Dropped,’ a reality show were sports personalities are dropped by a helicopter into inhospitable environments.
He was formerly sponsored by Nike and appeared in numerous commercials promoting the company. – DA
David Trezeguet’s goal in the 102nd minute at Euro 2000 sealed the victory over Italy in a 2-1 win for Les Bleus and since then France have gone 16 years without winning a major trophy.
Trezeguet retired last year after playing for Indian team Pune City. He holds the record as Juventus’ best ever foreign scorer and after 10 years at Turin, he finished his career by playing for Baniyas, River Plate, Newell’s Old Boys and Pune.
Since then, the French striker, who was born in Argentina, has become a Juventus ambassador and can otherwise be seen modelling eyewear products for Trussardi. – SM
Known for his wing wizardry and technical ability, Pires’ rise as a footballer came after he played his part in France’s success in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 – famously providing the cross that led to Trezeguet’s Golden Goal winner against Italy in the final.
He is best remembered for his seven-year spell at Arsenal though, winning three FA Cups and two Premier League titles – including playing in the club’s unbeaten season of 2003-04.
He went on to play for Villarreal and Aston Villa before ending his career at FC Goa in the Indian Super League, where the marquee signing featured along with other aging stars like former teammate Fredrik Ljungberg, Alessandro Del Piero and David James.
Announcing his retirement from the sport in late February, the 42-year-old made an appearance in Malaysia just last month to meet and greet fans as part of a Football Champions Tour.
He is also an ambassador for Grassroot Soccer, an international non-profit organisation that uses football to help stop the spread of HIV. – KT
Roger Lemerre (Manager)
His advancing age has not stopped Roger Lemerre from coaching, with the Frenchman coming out of retirement to manage CS Sedan Ardennes, a third-tier club in France, in January this year.
Sedan have won five matches under him (at the time of writing) and are 10th in the Championnat de France National.
Prior to the appointment, he managed Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel for six months in 2013 before he decided to take a short break.
Lemerre turns 75 on June 18 and he stands as one of the oldest managers still active in football. He is also the first coach in football history to win two different continental championships, having won the 2004 African Cup of Nations with Tunisia. – DA
Original main image: FIFA.com
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