After the heartbreak of falling to Portugal in the final in 2016, France hope to go one step further this time around and lift the Euro 2020 trophy.
Hopes are high for Didier Deschamps’ team, and rightly so. They’re the reigning world champions, will enter the tournament second in FIFA’s global rankings, and there will be a lot of neutrals who have Les Bleus as their favourites to go all the way.
They’ve been drawn in Group F alongside Portugal, Germany and Hungary, forming part of this year’s group of death, so France will have to be on top of their game from start to finish if they’re going to come out on top this summer.
Here’s a look at what to expect from France.
France finished top of their qualification group, but the only surprise was just how hard they had to work to secure that spot.
Les Bleus kicked things off which emphatic 4-1 and 4-0 victories over Moldova and Iceland respectively, but they hit a bump in the road when a full-strength side jetted off to Turkey in June 2019 to be handed a 2-0 defeat.
They bounced back by mauling Andorra (twice), Albania and Iceland, but their shot at revenge against Turkey didn’t go to plan, and a 1-1 draw actually left Deschamps’ side second in their group with two games to go. At that point, they hadn’t even sealed qualification.
A scare against Moldova followed but France’s comeback victory saw them move top of the table thanks to Turkey’s draw with third-placed Iceland, and a 2-0 win over Albania in the final game was enough to get the job done.
Is ‘overall talent’ a strength?
What sets this France squad apart from the rest is the fact that almost every player in the entire setup would walk into the starting lineup of any country on the planet. Their strength in depth is absolutely terrifying, and the fact that you could make a competitive squad of the players who missed out speaks volumes.
Fatigue isn’t going to be an issue for France, who can chop and change their lineup without any real drop in quality. Centre-back, central midfield and the entire forward line are particularly dominant areas, but that’s not to say the others aren’t terrifyingly impressive as well.
This squad is bursting with quality and experience, with many of the players also part of the group that lifted the World Cup three years ago. No national team knows how to win tournaments as well as France right now.
Had this tournament actually been held in 2020, we’d say that France’s weakest spot was up top, where Olivier Giroud was more of a playmaker than a goalscorer. These days, however, they’ve got Real Madrid‘s Karim Benzema at their disposal, so we need a new soft spot.
Deschamps’ biggest issue is his loyalty to captain Hugo Lloris. The Tottenham goalkeeper hasn’t been in the best form for the past few seasons and is no longer the dominant force he once was, but he still gets the nod from the boss every international break.
If Deschamps does lose patience in Lloris, he can turn to Mike Maignan – who was arguably the best stopper on the planet last season with Lille. The answer to the problem is right there, it’s just about whether Deschamps sees it.
How long have you got?
Benzema‘s return to the squad is obviously the most fascinating storyline, but there’s a good chance he’ll get drowned out by the plethora of other superstars in blue as well.
N’Golo Kante looks like the best player on the planet these days, while Paul Pogba‘s not too shabby either. Jules Kounde is the £70m centre-back everyone wants and Barcelona duo Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele always know how to switch it on at international level.
Oh, and there’s this kid called Kylian Mbappe. You might have heard of him. He’s pretty good.
Taking advantage of the extended squad allowance this summer, Deschamps opted to bring 26 of France’s best players to the tournament.
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 (Man 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)
There’s a good reason France are among the pre-tournament favourites. Their squad is clearly among the strongest around, and anything other than a deep run this summer will be an enormous shock to the system.
France will expect to lift the trophy this summer, and it’s going to be very tough for anyone to stop them. They’re just so, so good.
If they don’t make it to the final, something will have gone horribly wrong, but there’ll be an inquest on home soil if they don’t come back with the grand prize. This is France’s tournament to lose.