The most capped Goalkeeper in the history of the France national team with 87 matches, Fabien Barthez has become a legend not just in his nation, but around the football world altogether. Barthez had a fearless goalkeeping style, coming out for ever 50/50 ball and putting his body on the line almost in every match. Making his debut just a month before the 1994 World Cup, Barthez would have to wait 4 years to compete in a major tournament, because of France’s failed attempt to qualify for the 1994 edition of the World Cup and then the presence of Bernard Lama in goal in the 1996 Euros.
First Major Tournament – 1998 World Cup
With his 2 goals conceded in 7 matches, Fabien Barthez received the Lev Yashin award as the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
The French national team as a whole, lost their ways in the years after the 2000 Euro tournament, and in the 2002 World Cup tournament even three consecutive clean-sheets from Barthez would not help them, as they could not record a single goal against the likes of Senegal, Uruguay and Denmark. Even them, France managed to come out with a point after a 0-0 draw against the Uruguayans.
In the 2004 Euros hosted in Portugal it was more of the same for the French, with Barthez still very capable in goal, but the rest of the team not performing well on the pitch. They did manage to come out of the group stages in first place, after a nervy 2-1 win against England, that saw Barthez save a penalty from a David Beckham shot. They would later crush-out of the tournament in the quarter-finals to eventual champions Greece.
Barthez’s last major tournament appearance was in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. A surprise start that saw Barthez steal the number one position from the then Lyon goalkeeper Gregory Coupet. Although his start in the French goal was seen as somewhat controversial at the time, Barthez did not disappoint. With two clean-sheets in the round robin, France was off to the knock-out stages with 2 draws and a win. In the Round of 16 Barthez would concede a penalty to Spain’s David Villa but would see his side through with a number of saves. Then, in the quarter finals Fabien Barthez would become the first ever goalkeeper to blank Brazil in back to back World Cup matches (first in the 1998 finals 3-0) with a 1-0 victory for France. Another clean-sheet in the semi-finals against the Portuguese would give Barthez a final tally of 4 in 7 matches, after another 1-0 win for his side. In the final game of the tournament Barthez and his teammates would face the Italians, a side the French had a great success rate with the bold keeper on their side. This time it was not meant to be however, after the incredible controversy of Zinadine Zidane’s head-butt on Marco Materazzi the game finished at 1-1 and went on to a penalty shoot-out, in which Barthez was unable to save his team this time around with all 5 shots going past him, and a David Trezeguet miss would hand the Italians the World Cup trophy.
Fabien retired from professional football in 2007 and went on to accomplish a life-long dream by joining the motorsport circuit as a professional driver. In 2010 Barthez enjoyed his first ever podium finish.