A little over a decade later in 1998, influential playmaker Zinedine Zidane helped France lift the World Cup on home soil and reach the 2006 final but since he retired, the flair has dried up and coach Laurent Blanc has been handed the task of reviving it.
With Olympique Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff back from suspension and Arsenal's Samir Nasri in fine form, the former France defender does has a tentative option of fielding them both to give the midfield a creative edge.
Under former coach Raymond Domenech, they only played nine minutes together, yet Nasri believes the pair has a future.
"There is no debate. Yes, we are compatible," Nasri said this week at France's training camp in the outskirts of Paris.
In a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 formation, Gourcuff could start in a playmaker position with Florent Malouda on his left side and Nasri on the right flank.
Gourcuff's delicate turns and Nasri's punch could prove devastating if Blanc opts to start them together.
"His (Nasri) vision of football is similar to mine. It's a good thing," said Gourcuff, who was pivotal in Bordeaux's Ligue 1 triumph in 2009 under Blanc's leadership.
"When you play with team mates who have the same technical sensibility as yours, there is always an affinity," Nasri added.
"With Olympique Marseille and the Gunners, it was the case with Franck Ribery and Cesc Fabregas."
Blanc, however, may also be tempted to take no risks as France, without Gourcuff, clinched a 2-0 win in Bosnia last month to sit third in Group D on three points from two games, one point ahead of Romania.
But Blanc could be forced to make do without Diaby, who has been suffering from an ankle injuury and is a doubt for the game.
With the early World Cup exit and player rebellion still regarded as a gaping wound, Blanc also decided to seek help from what the French federation called on their website (www.fff.fr) a 'profiler' or mental coach.
The FFF said the profiler's task was to "define the individuals' skills, strenghths and weaknesses in order to improve their performance".
France play Luxembourg in another qualifier on Tuesday.
Romania: 12-Costel Pantilimon; 3-Razvan Rat, 4-Gabriel Tamas, 5-Cristian Chivu, 6-Mirel Radoi, 7-Gabriel Torje, 8-Ciprian Deac, 10-George Florescu, 15-Vasile Maftei, 19-Marius Bilasco, 22-Bogdan Stancu