Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribéry has announced that next month’s World Cup will be his last one playing for France. Ribéry, now 31, has set his sights firmly on winning the tournament in Brazil before bidding adieu to the big event.
The Frenchman, who also represented Les Bleus in the 2006 and 2010 tournaments, will go to South America on the back of two very good years at club level. His performances during Bayern’s treble-winning 2012-13 season saw him named alongside Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronalso on the three man shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d’Or. He was was edged in third place by Ronaldo and then Messi’s, who was on the back of a four-year winning streak.
Last season, he helped new boss Pep Guardiola win a domestic double and reach the Champions League semi-finals in his first season. However, Bayern were clinically dismantled by Real Madrid. Ribéry’s trickery, speed with the ball and close control has defenders backing off a lot of the time, unsure whether to commit or stay with their feet on the ground.
However, Ribéry’s career for club and country has not been as fruitful as it could have been. A number of long-term injuries have made him unavailable for selection over the years. Failing to play in key games has made him even more keen to make sure the World Cup in Brazil is one where France gives its all.
“It will be my last World Cup,” he told the radio station RTL. “We have to go there to achieve something, to try to win the World Cup, quite simply.” Although next month’s World Cup will be Ribéry’s last, he has no immediate plans to retire from international soccer and is expected to make himself available for Euro 2016, which will be staged in France.
Although Ribéry is now a veteran of the French side, he played a starring role in Germany 2006, scoring his first international goal in the second-round win over Spain. The French reached the final before losing on penalties to Italy. Four-years-later, the World Cup in South Africa saw the French squad and manager Raymond Domenech have a very public falling out. France crashed out in the group stages, scoring one goal and mustering up just one point in its group.
Ribéry is now four years wiser and despite a serious off-field allegation of sex with an underage prostitute back in 2010- along with national teammate Karim Benzema and others – the Bayern winger has done all of his talking on the pitch. In 2011, prosecutors asked that the case against the players be dropped as they did not know that the girl was 16-years-old when they paid her for sex. Now that Ribéry has put the episode behind him and announced that the World Cup in Brazil will be the last one he plays in, France must use its talisman to make amends for the disaster that was World Cup 2010. Although France had to win a play-off to make it to Brazil, it could not be in an easier group – Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras should not make qualification too difficult for Ribéry and his teammates. That is, provided there is not a repeat of the 2010 in-fighting.
World Cup Preview is a series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd