A recent slide down the FIFA rankings means France, World Cup winners in 1998 and runners-up in 2006, could face a tricky task to reach the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Saturday sees the preliminary draw made in Rio de Janeiro but while Brazil are sitting comfortably as pre-qualified hosts and holders Spain are seeded owing to their top ranking, the French have to go into pot two with the best of the rest, only the European cream going into pot one.
In the latest rankings, France have slipped to 15th place behind Norway and Greece, which leaves Laurent Blanc's side only the 10th-best team in Europe.
With the best nine seeded for Saturday's draw they will therefore have to scrap with the likes of Russia, Sweden and Montenegro who have soared up to 17th spot.
Also rising up the rankings are Uruguay, now fifth just a place behind Brazil following Sunday's Copa America success to push England into sixth.
All nine group winners in Europe will go through to the finals but only four more places are available with the best eight runners-up meeting in two-legged playoffs and the winners advancing.
Spain top the rankings after their success last summer in South Africa with Holland, three-times champions Germany, England, Portugal, four-times champions Italy, Croatia, Norway and Greece also making it into the seeds' pot.
The French are paying the price for last year's disastrous showing in South Africa, where they crashed out in the group phase amid a player revolt sparked by the sending home of striker Nicolas Anelka for launching a foul-mouthed tirade at then coach Raymond Domenech.
The European qualifiers will start on September 7 and end in October 2013, ahead of the playoffs, which will take place on November 15 and 19.
France themselves had to go through the playoffs last time out, controversially beating the Republic of Ireland with a blatant Thierry Henry handball leading to the winner.
FIFA will ensure that politics does not intrude onto the qualifying scene by keeping apart squabbling neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Russia and Georgia. UEFA policy is to ensure that those teams are not placed in the same group.
A total of 38 coaches are expected to attend Saturday's draw, including Brazil's Luiz Menezes and Vicente del Bosque, who led Spain to glory last year.
Organisers on Wednesday officially confirmed the dates for the event which will start on June 12 with the final on July 13.