"Two years ago [when France won the FIFA World Cup in Paris], everything just went so fast. I wanted to take my time this time, to breathe."
Captain Didier Deschamps was determined to take it all in after David Trezeguet's golden goal sealed the UEFA EURO 2000 title for France to add to their global crown from two years earlier. He was quickly joined by several like-minded team-mates, the fulcrum of a Bleus side that had eclipsed even the golden generation of the 1980s. It was a lot to take in.
1 Didier Deschamps
One of France's most successful players who won the UEFA Champions League with Marseille and Juventus as well as five league titles. Deschamps' crowning achievement came in captaining France to glory at the 1998 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000 – not bad for a man once labelled a "water carrier" by Eric Cantona. What this midfield general lacked in artistry he made up for in energy and leadership, attributes that have served him well as a coach, notably at Marseille and now with France.
2 Marcel Desailly
A commanding centre-back, Ghana-born Desailly won the inaugural UEFA Champions League with Marseille and added another the next season with AC Milan in a campaign that brought the first of two Serie A championships. The 2000 FA Cup was the highlight of his stint as Chelsea captain but Desailly's pinnacle came with France in their victorious 1998 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000 finals, though was sent off in the former. Now a media pundit.
3 Bixente Lizarazu
Basque-born Lizarazu is the most decorated French footballer of all time. If a trophy-laden spell with Bayern München, including six Bundesliga crowns and the 2001 UEFA Champions League, is chiefly responsible for that haul, his most illustrious triumphs came with France whom he represented 97 times. The left-back in 1998 and 2000, his dynamic touchline thrusts and resilient defending were key to both successes. He retired in 2006, became a martial arts champion and currently works as television pundit.
4 Robert Pirès
Pirès amassed 79 caps in an eight-year association with the Bleus. He was a fringe player at both the 1998 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000, but it was his skilful run to the byline and cutback that teed up Trezeguet's clincher in the Rotterdam final against Italy. The winger quit Marseille for Arsenal shortly after and shone in north London, claiming two Premier League titles and three FA Cups before joining Villarreal in 2006. Now 42, he came out of retirement in 2014 to play in India before ending his playing career again in February 2016.
5 Patrick Vieira
Vieira was a junior member of the 1998 side before becoming a fully integrated protagonist at UEFA EURO 2000, bringing his rangy style to bear as Deschamps' midfield foil. That triumph came in the midst of a nine-year stay at Arsenal, with whom Vieira captured three league championships and four FA Cups, playing over 400 games. After a term at Juventus, he won four Scudettos with Internazionale Milano. He retired in 2011 and was on the staff of Manchester City before taking the reins at New York City in January.
6 Thierry Henry
A Premier League great, Henry arrived at Arsenal as an unwanted winger and left as the club's record scorer with 226 goals in 370 matches. Part of the France squads that prevailed in 1998 and 2000, he compiled two league titles and three FA Cups with the Gunners and was central to the 'Invincibles' team that remained unbeaten throughout 2003/04. He also won two championships and the 2009 UEFA Champions League with Barcelona before transferring to New York Red Bulls. Today he is a pundit.
7 Lilian Thuram
Guadeloupe-born Thuram received a French-record 142 caps during a 14-year association that peaked in 1998 and 2000. A surging right-back whose assurance and cool-headedness served him well when he switched to centre-half later in his career, Thuram was denied another World Cup in 2006 in the final by Italy, his home for a decade. He spent five years apiece with Parma and Juventus, lifting the 1999 UEFA Cup and two titles before calling it a day at Barcelona aged 36. He is now a social campaigner.
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