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With a team made up almost exclusively of world beaters, France aren’t just favourites to win Euro 2020 , they’re “super favourites”.
That’s according to Arsene Wenger who, in fairness, knows more about French football than most. Speaking to Sky Sports last weekend, he gave a concise summary of why Les Bleus have been widely tipped to repeat their triumph at Russia 2018.
“Favourite is not big enough,” he said. “When you win the World Cup and then you have in your team [N’Golo] Kante, [Paul] Pogba, [Karim] Benzema, [Antoine] Griezmann, [Kingsley] Coman, [Olivier] Giroud… you will have on the bench 11 players who would play basically in any other national team.
“You cannot refuse the fact that you are world champions. It’s a team that has not peaked… it’s a team which is still going up because they are all young these guys, apart from two or three.”
Can France replicate their success at Russia 2018?
(Image: AFP/Getty Images)
With consecutive 3-0 wins in their warm-up friendlies against Wales and Bulgaria, France also have momentum behind them. They have lost one of their last 20 matches, suffering a surprise 2-0 defeat to Finland in a friendly last November.
Given the sheer strength and depth of their squad, the main challenge for Les Bleus will be shouldering the weight of expectation. Still, with memories of winning the World Cup still fresh in their minds, handling extreme pressure is nothing new to Didier Deschamps’ side.
Style of play
France could alter their approach depending on who starts up front
(Image: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
With so much talent in the team, France are hugely dynamic in every area of the pitch.
In Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez, Deschamps has the luxury of calling up half of Bayern Munich’s back four. Where Hernandez was mainly used as a left-sided centre-back towards the end of the Bundesliga season, he will most likely play at left-back while Paris Saint-Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe partners Real Madrid ’s Raphael Varane in the middle.
Pavard is slightly more attack-minded than Hernandez, supplying a lovely cross to set up Giroud to score against Bulgaria, but both are tidy distributors and can provide dangerous overlapping runs out wide. They may be used slightly differently depending on whether Giroud or Karim Benzema starts up front, with Giroud requiring a steady supply of crosses from the flanks.
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Having mainly used a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 formation in recent years, Deschamps may opt for more of a 4-3-3 if he decides to go with Benzema, Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in attack.
In midfield, Kante will provide the structure while Pogba adds gloss to the exterior. They will most likely be joined by one of Corentin Tolisso or Adrien Rabiot, with Moussa Sissoko as a wildcard option.
Didier Deschamps faces the media
(Image: FRANCK FIFE/POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Along with Brazil legend Mario Zagallo and German icon Franz Beckenbauer, Deschamps is one of three men to have lifted the World Cup as a player and later as a manager.
That alone has written him into football folklore but, were he to follow up by winning Euro 2020, he would have to be counted among the greatest international coaches of all time.
Only one man, Berti Vogts, has won the Euros on the pitch and from the dugout, having triumphed with West Germany at Euro ‘72 before breaking English hearts at Euro ‘96.
Having taken charge of France in 2012, Deschamps inherited a side riven by infighting and, in those early days, suffered his fair share of setbacks. Les Bleus are unrecognisable compared to the team he took on nine years ago, even if he still has some prodigious egos to contend with .
With France up against Germany, Portugal and Hungary at the group stage, Deschamps will have to get his tactics and team selection right from the start rather than feeling his way into the tournament like he did at the World Cup. If he can get the better of Joachim Low and Euro 2016 nemesis Fernando Santos, however, he will have every right to feel confident that his team can go the distance.
Kylian Mbappe has the potential to light up Euro 2020
(Image: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes)
While it’s massively tempting to go for Giroud, the answer is obviously Mbappe.
A World Cup winner age 19 and only the second teenager after Pele to score in a World Cup final, he has done nothing in the interim to diminish the idea that he is a generational talent.
All eyes are on Benzema after his surprise recall to the squad , which could work in Mbappe’s favour. Though he’s used to having his every move scrutinised with both France and PSG, Benzema’s arrival could be a welcome distraction.
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With an intriguing subplot involving overtures from Real Madrid, it will be interesting to see whether Mbappe and Benzema establish a close bond on the pitch.
Speaking to Marca ahead of the tournament, Benzema said: “Kylian is a young player with immense quality and he is a good boy. He would be welcome at Real Madrid of course, but what team wouldn’t want to sign him in an instant?”
One to watch
Jules Kounde carries the ball forwards on his international debut against Wales
(Image: Dave Winter/BPI/REX/Shutterstock)
As the new kid on the block, Jules Kounde has his work cut out for him as he looks to break into Deschamps’ starting line-up.
Nonetheless, he has been impressive for Sevilla over the last two seasons and, aged 22, is seen as one of the most promising young defenders in La Liga.
He may not get many minutes under his belt at the tournament – he made his international debut as a half-time substitute against Wales, so he’s by far the most inexperienced member of the group – but it’s worth keeping an eye out for him if he does get an opportunity.
Currently linked with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, Kounde could have a career-defining summer ahead whether or not he gets much game time at the Euros.
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