Favourites, at 5/1 to win Euro 2020, France will be looking to become only the second side in modern history (see Spain at Euros 2008 and 2012 and World Cup 2010) to be crowned reigning European and World champions.
It’s an accolade they frankly should’ve earned upon their 2018 glory in Russia, as two years previous they strolled to a European Championship final on home soil only to lose 1–0 to Portugal in extra-time via an unlikely Eder goal.
Didier Deschamps’ side will be desperate to relinquish the embarrassment of that night at the Stade de France, and they have a squad perfectly primed to do so. They will, however, have to escape from the so-called ‘Group of Death’: Group F, which consists of the world champions as well as Hungary, Portugal and Germany.
In Part 1 of our Upper 90 Euro 2020 Preview series, we’ll take a dive into France’s form, playing style and key players, before taking a look at some key odds and stats for your own points of reference.
Euro 2020 Qualifying: WWDWWWWLWW
France, as with most of the top seeded sides, breezed through European qualification back in 2019. They won eight of their 10 games, with one draw and one loss — both of which, incidentally, were against second placed Turkey, who won in Istanbul and drew in Paris.
Les Bleus managed 25 goals (2.5 per game) and conceded only six. Whilst routinely winning, however, Deschamps’ side did struggle to find their va va voom in qualifying, almost stumbling to slight victories against Iceland (1–0), Moldova (2–1) and Albania (2–0) — far from European Championship winning form.
They have proven that they can turn it on for the finals, though, and have an impressive overall record in the time between qualifying and finals. Overall, France are unbeaten in their last 18 international games and have beaten the likes of Portugal, Croatia and Sweden during that run.
Didier Deschamps has been in charge of France since 2012, and tends not to overcomplicate the tactical side of things, leaning more on the quality of his players to earn the plaudits over any particular tactical innovations.
In that sense, expect France to stick with the same 4–3–3 / 4–3–1–2 hybrid system that served them so well in Russia.
France’s defensive unit is arguably the best in Europe at the moment, with the experienced Hugo Lloris behind a solid partnership of Raphael Varane and Prensel Kimpembe. Bayern duo Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez will own the flanks.
Added protection will come in the form of N’Golo Kante who will do exactly as you expect and exactly as you have seen since his incredible introduction to the Premier League with Leicester. Paul Pogba will be the main playmaker in midfield, allowed to push forward and join attacks whilst not having to worry too much about defensive back-work. Adrien Rabiot is likely to provide balance in midfield, shuttling between late entries into attack and solid defensive work rate.
Upfront, Griezmann will carry the brunt of the creative weight, drifting in from the left to link midfield to attack. Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema will offer two very different individual threats throughout the finals: with Mbappe’s devastating pace in behind and Benzema’s aerial ability and finishers instinct, France have two very different but very effective strikers, both are always reliable during bit tournaments.
Kylian Mbappe: The world is almost running out of superlatives to describe the PSG forward Mbappe. Simply world-class is most appropriate. The 22-year old has averaged 0.90 goals per 90 minutes this season, and is in the 95th percentile or higher for strikers in Europe’s major leagues for expected goals per 90 (0.84), shots on target per 90 (1.68) and non-penalty expected goals per shot (0.19).
Mbappe lit up the 2018 World Cup as an exciting teenager, combining his devastating speed and skill with deadly finishing. He managed four goals and won the Fifa World Cup Best Young Player award, as well as becoming only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, alongside Pele, when he thundered home from 25-yards in France’s 4–2 win against Croatia.
Three years of relentless improvement in France has only made Mbappe more deadly as he continues his pursuit to an inevitably eventual Ballon D’or contest with Erling Haaland — winning his first Euros would make a good start.
N’Golo Kante: With every great French side of recent years comes one consistency: a world class water-carrier. The ‘water-carrier’ was a term initially coined by Eric Cantona to describe the now national side manager Deschamps, who was a notoriously industrious and intelligent defensive midfielder who provided the base for Cantona’s attacking artistry.
The role would later be filled by both Marcel Desailly (less often as he tended to play at centre-back) and Claude Makelele, both revered amongst the best anchormen to have ever lived.
Coincidentally, all three had played for Chelsea, as does the man currently at the base of a World Cup winning French side: N’Golo Kante, who’s energy and reading of the game is essential to break up opposition moves. His selflessness will give the French full-backs the freedom to bomb on and provide width to a central front three. He may well go mostly unnoticed during the finals, but that’s no bad thing. It may well be exactly how he and Deschamps envision it.
Favourites at 9/2 to win Euro 2020, expectations are high for this French side to carry World Cup momentum into the summer. They are also joint favourites at 13/5 to reach the final, yet only second favourites at 11/8 to win their group behind Germany.
Mbappe is 9/1 to win the Golden Boot, whilst Benzema is 16/1 and Griezmann is 25/1.
Les Bleus are 31/20 to win their opener against Germany.
France are in Group F with Germany, Hungary and Portugal.
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