Lilian Thuram - France's towering right-back

Thuram broke into the national squad in 1994 and made his first World Cup appearance in 1998 on home soil, which proved to be his most memorable outing.

Lilian Thuram has the distinction of being the most-capped player for France.   -  The Hindu Archives

Towering right-back Lilian Thuram has the distinction of being the most-capped player for France. Thuram broke into the national squad in 1994 and made his first World Cup appearance in 1998 on home soil, which proved to be his most memorable outing.

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The 46-year-old scored only two international goals in his 142 appearances for the French team and both of those came in the semifinal encounter against Croatia. France was trailing 1-0 and Thuram slotted home two lovely goals on either side of half-time to steer his side to the final, where the Aime Jacquet-managed side went on to defeat Brazil for the title. Thuram's inspirational defensive performances and those two crucial goals won him the Bronze Ball at the tournament.

His fine run with the national side continued as he anchored the defence of the French team that finished runner-up in the Euro 2000 championship.

However, his lowest point with the national side came during the 2002 World Cup. The French, who were the defending champions, failed to register a single win in the group stages and finished at the bottom of Group A. This was followed by France's exit from the 2004 Euro championship in the quarterfinal stage and Thuram decided to retire from international football.

 

With the 2006 World Cup looming around the corner, national coach Raymond Domenech convinced Thuram to return to the side in late 2005, to once again anchor the defence. France made it all the way to the final but lost to Italy on penalties, in a game that is best remembered for Zinedine Zidane's red card for headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

Thuram was later named France captain for the 2008 Euro Championship. His team, though, couldn't manage a single win and finished last in its group. Following the team's ouster, Thuram called it a day and retired from international football after a career spread over 14 years.