LES BLEUS: EVERYONE’S BEST BET TO WIN EURO 2020
When the French take to the field at the Euros, Didier Deschamps’ eye would be on recreating history. After all, the Les Bleus boss captained the elite class of kings that were crowned champions of the world in ’98 and European emperors in 2000.
France, under Deschamps came very close to repeating that historic feat in 2016, only to suffer a heartbreak against Portugal in Paris after Eder had other plans. They turned tragedy into triumph in 2018 and took over the world.
The recently announced 26-man France squad is stacked to the core and bears little resemblance to the side that finished 2nd best in 2016. Karim Benzema’s return from a 6-year exile is a prime example of that.
So let us nosedive into a detailed look at the outright favourites for the European Championships and whether Deschamps’ men has what it takes to repeat their gaffer’s heroics.
Fronted by the captain and backed by pedigree
World Cup-winning captain, Hugo Lloris is all but expected to start every major game for Les Blues at the Euros. The Spurs skipper, at 34 years of age shows no signs of slowing down.
During the course of the season, Lloris kept 12 clean sheets which was 4th best in the league, despite what was a shambolic Tottenham back 4. These performances, along with his leadership and experience of 125 caps for France undoubtedly cement his position as the custodian in Deschamps’ line-up.
However, if Lloris suffers from any fitness issues during the tournament, his understudies are solid, if not spectacular picks in veteran Steve Mandanda and Ligue 1 champion, Mike Maignan. The brand-new Milan shotstopper kept 21 clean sheets as Lille conceded a miserly sum of 23 goals throughout the season to pip PSG to a historic league triumph.
All in all, the French have nothing to worry about in goal.
Deschamps’ dubious picks don’t stop this defence from being the best in the business
Let’s start at right-back. Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard is expected to start once again as he did in the impregnable backline during the 2018 World Cup. Given how he keeps simple and links play efficiently going forward as well as the expert defensive insurance he provides, the understated defender is a no-brainer. And Leo Dubois offers stability as a back-up.
In central defence, Deschamps has opted for Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Clement Lenglet and Kurt Zouma. Despite a shaky season at Real Madrid, Varane when teamed with Kimpembe are a cultured yet colossal double-act in defence and guaranteed starters.
Zouma has little to blame himself for his lack of appearances under Thomas Tuchel, considering the undeniable class of his peers, which has limited his impact in a season where things started on a very promising note for the Frenchman under Frank Lampard. However, one fails to understand how the imposing centre-half has made his way into a roster of players that are second to none.
World Cup-winning centre-back, Samuel Umtiti has been given the axe on account of an injury-riddled season and ever since clasping the coveted trophy, things have gone off the rails. And the lesser said about the Clement Lenglet pick, the better.
With the likes of Ibrahima Konate and Dayot Upamecano pairing up together at the U21 European Championships, God knows how Zouma and Lenglet got the nod ahead of them. Even someone like Maxence Lacroix deserved a shout ahead of the pair but it is what it is.
At left-back, completing the French defensive bastion is Bayern Munich’s Lucas Hernandez, with Lucas Digne acting as a backup. Both Digne and Hernandez are known for bombing down the left flank and wreaking havoc.
Lucas’ brother, Theo Hernandez’s exclusion does raise questions, considering his 15 goal involvements in all competitions after what was yet another stellar season. But to sum the French defence up, despite certain dubious picks, it ticks all boxes.
A midfield starring a potential Ballon d’Or winner
France have a number of world-class options to pick and choose within that illustrious midfield. But in order to make the best use of the firepower they posses in attack under the 4-2-3-1 system preferred by the manager, one can expect the Les Blues to start with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. Of course, the classy Corentin Tolisso has started in recent friendlies so it may well also be a 4-3-3 this time around.
But touching on that midfield, we can’t save the Kante conversation for later. While doubts have often been raised about the nicest man in football, after what was a forgettable 2020 where he did look on the wane, he has proved his critics wrong without breaking a sweat.
With heroic performances in Chelsea’s victorious Champions League march doing all the talking for him, there hasn’t been a more impactful footballer in 2021. The Ballon d’Or shouts do have some weight behind them because he’s bossing the elite when the world is watching.
On the other hand, despite the reality TV show that is Paul Pogba’s life at Old Trafford, the gifted midfielder has proven his class for Les Bleus, time and again. Pogba and Kante were inseparably indestructible at the World Cup and that formula cannot be beaten.
However, with all said and done, the snubbing of 18-year old Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga as well as the impeccable Tanguy Ndombele is slightly bizzarre, considering Moussa Sissoko of all people has made the cut. While you can’t please everyone, picking Sissoko is an absolute howler but it won’t mean much when Kante and Pogba are in the mood to mesmerize and murder oppositions.
It just gets better and better.
A stacked attack
On the right side of the attack, Kylian Mbappe is bound to set the tournament ablaze. Yes, we’re diving straight in. Right, left or through the middle, you can’t stop King Kylian.
As the No. 9, Karim Benzema is in the form of his life and with a point to prove after his return from the shadows, defences should be shaking in their boots. to the French National Team. The Real Madrid front man has started 46 games across all competitions for the Madrid outfit this season, scored 30 goals and assisted 9 in the 2020/21 campaign.
That Mbappe-Benzema link-up is glorious.
And off the left, the Antoine Griezmann resurgence continues and he looks like a man who’s ready to prove the world wrong with his unreal finishes against Wales and Bulgaria. This front 3 is so incredibly fluid that it’s tough finding a mistake.
With proven goalscorers like Olivier Giroud and Wissam Ben Yedder off the bench and prodigious talent in Marcus Thuram and Ousmane Dembele, the strength in depth is herculean.
It really does get better and better.
Deschamps has a squad that is deep enough to have a world-class player for every single position. Going into the tournament as clear favourites, one should not be surprised if the French head honcho becomes the only person ever to have won the international double of the Euros and the World Cup, both as a player and as a manager.
Everyone’s bet to win the whole thing and you can’t blame them.