France a fantastique bet to be top European team

World Cup winners in 1998, France were then unceremoniously dumped out of the group stages in 2002, only to reach the final in 2006, followed by another damp squib exit in 2010. If patterns are anything to go by, 2014 could be a good year for France.

Even beyond meaningless coincidence, there is plenty to suggest that the French will do well this tournament. They are 8/11 favourites to top a weak group containing Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras and, should they justify those odds, they would likely avoid Argentina in the second round.

Instead, they would then face the runner-up from Group F, likely to be Bosnia or Nigeria ─ an eminently winnable tie for Les Bleus.

Germany would then seem probable opponents in the quarters, a side that have named 36-year-old Miroslav Klose as their only striker. France’s striking options compare rather favourably, with Olivier Giroud, Karim Benzema and Loic Remy scoring 60 goals between them last season.

With Brazil and Argentina favourites to reach the semis, if France book their place among them on their predicted run, it will have meant they won’t have met a South American side in the knockouts until the last four, a huge boon on Brazilian soil.

Compared with the possible runs of Spain, England, Italy and Netherlands, France could well be the leading European challenger and, at 7/1 with Coral to be the top team from this continent, look a solid bet.

France to be top European team at 7/1 with Coral