France go into the Euros as the favourites to win the tournament and as the host nation expectations are high. Their depth in squad as well as balance in youth and experience would suggest that they can go the whole way. But can France deal with the added pressure of being the host nation? They did for the 1998 World Cup, so can they do it again?
France gained automatic qualification into the tournament as the host nation and so have played a tedious amount of friendlies since the end of the 2014 World Cup. Since the start of the ‘international season’ Les Bleus have won 9 out of 10 games, their only lost coming to England and yet that game was overshadowed by the horror of the Paris attacks. France’s run of friendlies saw them earn wins over World champions Germany. Their biggest win came against Armenia in October when they won 4-0. For the tournament itself France will feature in Group A and again are firm favourites to win the group. They are joined by Romania, Albania and Switzerland.
Even though Les Tricolores have had a stellar record previous to the tournament the team seams somewhat unsettled. The sex-tape scandal between Real Madrid star Karim Benzema and winger Mathieu Valbuena is still partially hang over the teams head, with neither being selected to the upset of many French fans. Mamadou Sakho was also unavailable for selection due to his own scandal in the form of a failed drug test. Didier Deschamps, the manager of the team, also finds himself in the midst of a media storm after being accused of a racist team selection.
In order to combat these problems Deschamps, like many previous French managers, has picked a team based as much on characters and personalities as the ability of players. With French football in general fixating on whether players have the right personality and mentality, Dechamps may be using this tournament to regain public affection and re-establish the mentality around the French national football team. His team would suggest so with the likes of Hugo Lloris, Patrice Evra and Laurent Koscielny all being established names within the team. Lloris, the captain and calm conservative person, for one strongly argues this point. The inclusions of players such as Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko would also suggest that the manager has chosen players that he trusts, as neither have had stellar seasons with the clubs yet have still been included at the expense of more deserving players, two of those being Hatem Ben-Arfa and Alexandre Lacazette.
France’s biggest strength is their quality in depth even with the exclusion of some players. Dechamps is likely to play a 4-3-3 formation after attempts at other formations failed. This will allow France’s dynamic midfield, containing the likes of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and Dmitri Payet to thrive. The talent in midfield as well as adventurous fullbacks will allow France to out number and suffocate opposition defences. France are likely to start with an imposing striker up front, probably in the form of Olivier Giroud, but it is up to Dechamps to put his faith in the talented youngsters to support him on the flanks.
France’s biggest weakness is probably their defence but even so they should cope well enough. With Kurt Zouma, Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu all missing the tournament due to injury and finding a suitable partner for Koscielny may be a problem. The fullback partnership is likely to be Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna both will offer a wealth of experience, however they are scarce in quality beyond these two.
N’Golo Kante or Kingsley Coman could be surprises in the French team. Kante would be able to step in and aid the French defence seamlessly. His ability to read and so intercept attacks before recycling the ball out will be useful to France’s more creative players. Coman however has started for big European powehouses such as Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich, and the winger still hasn’t reached his 20th birthday. Coman was an influential part in Bayern Munich’s comeback against Juventus in the Champions League earlier this season. The teenager also has the most assists in the Champions League this season. However whether the two have a chance to shine depends on whether Dechamps can drop other stars to gamble with Kante and Coman.
France’s 23-Man Squad
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Benoit Costil
Defenders: Christophe Sallet, Patrice Evra, Adil Rami, Eliaquim Mangala, Bacary Sagna, Lucas Dignes, Laurent Koscielny, Samuel Umiti
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Dimitri Payet, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Moussa Sissoko, Paul Pogba, Kingsley Coman, Morgan Schneiderlin
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Ander- Pierre Gigna, Anthony Martial
By Francesca Byrne, TFN Columnist on 09/06/2016 at 14:07
Follow Francesca on Twitter @diernamite