Playing as hosts, the French national team suffered a heart-breaking final loss to Portugal in Euro 2016.
As manager Didier Deschamps attempts to lead his star-studded French side to their first European Championship in 21 years, the world champions will be one of the favourites to lift the Euro 2020 trophy. The last time when France won the tournament was in 2000 – they defeated Italy 2-1, courtesy of David Trezeguet’s golden goal in extra time. Five years ago, they came close to lifting the trophy again as hosts, but were undone by an injury-time strike by Portugal’s forward Eder in 2016. Undeterred by the disappointment, Deschamps led his team to a World Cup glory two years later in Russia. With a balanced overall squad that also welcomes back in-form striker Karim Benzema, the Les Bleus will be one of the teams to look forward this summer.
Let us have a detailed look at France’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats going into the tournament:
Dynamic midfield: The real strength of France is its organisation, and the midfield plays a crucial part in attaining that goal. Because of their diverse midfield, the coach can fall back on a variety of backup plans and formations. France has a lot of midfield options in their roster, ranging from a destroyer to an anchorman to box-to-box midfielders. N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba are sure starters. The question is – who will support them? One of Adrien Rabiot and Corentin Tolisso would be the favourite for the third slot.
World-class attack: Karim Benzema’s recent form with Real Madrid means he will lead the attack as the central striker. The 33-year-old adds further firepower to a line-up of offensive options that is already formidable. The Les Bleus have a forward line that can break any defence, with Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ben Yedder, who has excelled in Ligue 1 with his goals, Ousmane Dembele, and Kingsley Coman.
Despite the fact that the French side appears to be without a clear weakness on paper, Deschamps will be concerned about his backline due to some of his players’ less than impressive form. The coaching staff may be concerned about their defenders’ inability to live up to their usual high standards rather than their lack of talent. Their excellent defence laid the groundwork for the World Cup success, but it could be a problem of concern for them in Euros.
Barring few defenders like Kurt Zouma, who won the Champions League with Chelsea, and Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard, among others, the rest have failed to match their usual standards. Besides, there is also a big debate on who will partner Raphael Varane. Samuel Umtiti used to be his regular centre-back pairing, but he was not even selected in the squad. The real fight could be between Presnel Kimpembe and Zouma for a starting spot. First-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris also endured a below-par campaign with Tottenham Hotspur.
Benzema has not played for France since 2015, and this may be a perfect way for him to make a grand entrance into the national squad. The 33-year-old striker, who missed France’s Euro 2016 campaign and 2018 World Cup victory, was Real Madrid’s most important player last season. In the starting lineup, he will undoubtedly be an improvement over Olivier Giroud.
In Group F, France are in the “Group of Death,” together with Portugal, Germany, and Hungary. On paper, Germany and France appear to be the favourites to qualify, but the defending European champions should not be underestimated. Furthermore, four of the best third-placed teams will qualify for the knockout stage, implying that all three of the top teams have a chance to advance from the group.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mike Maignan (Lille)
Defenders: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Lucas Digne (Everton), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich),
Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Jules Kounde (Sevilla)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester Utd), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)