Euro 2020 profile: France, the team to beat

by | Jun 9, 2021 14:08

15 June – Germany (8pm GMT, Fussball Arena, Munich)

19 June – Hungary (2pm GMT, Puskas Arena, Budapest)

23 June – Portugal (8pm GMT, Puskas Arena, Budapest)

France head into Euro 2020 as the firm favourites in the competition, but they must deal with the toughest group of the competition, writes Fabio De Dominicis.

The team to beat

Ranked second in the latest FIFA rankings behind Belgium, Les Bleus have ensured their progress to the business end of all international tournaments they have participated in over the past decade since their forgetful 2010 World Cup group stage exit.

Quarter-finalists in both Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, they were minutes away from adding a potential third European continental crown to their cabinet five years ago, only to be undone by Eder’s goal in the extra time as they ended Euro 2016 as runners-up behind Portugal.

They more than made up for that final defeat by continuing their upward trajectory with a complete display at the last edition of the World Cup in Russia, marching their way through the tournament before recording a comprehensive 4-2 victory over Croatia in the final to claim their stake as the world’s best.

Blessed with a plethora of talent across the field, coach Didier Deschamps raised many eyebrows in the build-up to this summer’s competition by re-calling in-form Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema to the national team for the first time since 2015. A blackmail scandal, for which the Los Blancos frontman must still stand trial in October, led to Benzema’s initial exile from the national squad, followed by a much-publicised spat with Deschamps, yet the duo have seemingly reconciled, with the Spanish-based forward’s 30 club goals this season too good to ignore. Benzema adds to an already ferocious attack, including Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, and Olivier Giroud.

The latter, despite top-scoring with six goals in the qualifiers, looks most likely to make way for the potent Benzema, who will undoubtedly look to impress and prove a point in the national jersey.

In Deschamps they have a former national captain who has been there and done it himself, and now into his ninth year at the helm of the national team, has built a formidable and cohesive unit who are equally impressive in defence and attack.

Les Bleus have conceded just six goals in their last ten competitive fixtures, while scoring 18 goals in the process. Bar a friendly 2-0 loss to Finland in November 2020, they last tasted defeat – a Euro 2020 qualifying 2-0 loss to Turkey – in June 2019, winning 14 of the 18 matches played since.

The reigning World Cup champions won’t have it all their way at the Euros however, and will face a stern test as early as Matchday 1 where they face European powerhouse Germany, whom they edged 2-0 in the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

Since then, they have met on three occasions – one friendly and two UEFA Nations League encounters – and have remained unbeaten against Die Mannschaft with one victory and two draws. Thereafter France come up against a solid Hungarian outfit, before ending the group stage with a repeat of the Euro 2016 final – a scintillating battle with Portugal, which could very well determine the fate of either side for the rest of the tournament.

Coach: Didier Deschamps – In charge since 2012, the Frenchman has created a well-oiled French machine which has purred under his command, and will no doubt look to keep firing with the numerous talented players at his disposal.

Preferred XI: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Kimpembe Hernandez; Kante, Pogba, Rabiot; Antoine Griezmann, Mbappe, Benzema

Look out for: Stars are littered across the pitch with Deschamps spoilt for choice, yet it is difficult not to look past the popular yet extremely talented midfielder N’Golo Kante as a stand-out star. A work-rate matched by no other, the diminutive Chelsea midfielder has an engine that never ceases, combined with an immaculate sense of positioning and tackling ability to ensure the dirty work is done for his more flamboyant teammates in attack. Man-of-the-Match for both semi-finals and the final in Chelsea’s triumphant Champions League winning campaign, the 2018 World Cup winner will no doubt look to replicate his club’s continental success in the blue of France.

France Euro 2020 squad

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mike Maignan (Lille)

Defenders: Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Lucas Digne (Everton), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)

Midfielders: N’golo Kante (Chelsea), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham)

Attackers: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

France versus…

…Germany P 16 W 8 D 4 L 4 F 21 A 17

…Hungary P 22 W 8 D 2 L 12 F 31 A 47

…Portugal P 27 W 19 D 2 L 6 F 50 A 29

Stats

Population: 67m

Nickname: Les Bleus

Top Division: Ligue 1

FIFA World Ranking: 2

International honours: World Cup champions (1998, 2018), European champions (1984; 2000), FIFA Confederation Cup champions (2001, 2003), Olympic champions (1984)

Most capped player: Lilian Thuram (142)

Leading international scorer: Thierry Henry (51)

France at the European Championships:

1960 – Fourth place

1964 – Did not qualify

1968Did not qualify

1972 – Did not qualify

1976 – Did not qualify

1980 – Did not qualify

1984 – Champions

1988 – Did not qualify

1992 – Group stage

1996 – Third place

2000 – Champions

2004 – Quarter-finals

2008 – Group stage

2012 – Quarter-finals

2016 – Runners-up

How they got to Euro 2020: They finished top of their qualifying Group H, winning eight of their ten matches, but were pushed all the way by second-placed Turkey, with whom they drew 1-1 at home and lost 2-0 in Konya.

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