Euro 2016: France have the ability but can they deliver?
Can Didier Deschamps lead a supremely talented squad to the hosts to Euro 2016 glory?
A soft draw and favourable tournament structure has handed the hosts a pathway to the semi-finals as long as they can get off to a decent start and win their group. That really should be withing their capabilities. Didier Deschamps hasn’t had the advantage of a qualifying campaign to help his squad’s development - and a good deal of improvement is certainly required over 2014 where France went out of the World Cup rather tamely the first time they were seriously tested - but he has had a good club campaign with the lies of N’Golo Kante, Dimitri Payet and Anthony Martial adding quality and confidence to a group that already had the makings of a very fine spine. If everything goes as it sort of should, then France would be on course to meet Germany or the winners of Ireland’s group in the semis; they may not be quite up to beating the World Champions at this stage, but you would think they would give it more of a go than they did in Brazil.
How they qualified
By virtue of being hosts. Easy.
Manager: Didier Deschamps
There would be a nice symmetry if Didier Deschamps, the man who captained France to glory in the last major tournament held on home soil, was to mastermind victory in this summer’s championships. The former Juventus midfielder took over from Laurent Blanc in 2012 and seems to have administered a relative calm over the French national side, the sex-tape scandal between Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena notwithstanding. This is France, after all. Despite the absence of Benzema, Deschamps has a tournament winning squad at his disposal, and coupled with home advantage making the final at what would be an incredibly emotional Stade de France has to be the minimum expected return.
Star man: Paul Pogba
Voted the young player of the tournament in the 2014 World Cup, Paul Pogba has stepped up a few levels since and can now be considered one of the Europe’s elite midfielders. He is a dynamic force in the middle, a brilliant passer of the ball and also very elusive. At the age of just 23 he has just won his fourth consecutive Serie A title with Juventus, and will be the driving force behind France’s challenge this summer.
One to Watch: Anthony Martial
France have an embarrassment of riches going forward and the absence of Benzema won’t be as keenly felt thanks to the emergence of Anthony Martial. Eyebrows were made when Manchester United signed the striker from Monaco in a big-money move last summer but he has proved to be a sole ray of light for Louis van Gaal’s side in a dismal season. He has sublime dribbling ability and is dead-eyed in front of goal, meaning he can lead the line or play wider. Could form part of the deadly attack alongside Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann.
Goalkeepers: Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Lucas Digne (Roma), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Adil Rami (Sevilla), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Samuel Umtiti (Lyon).
Midfielders: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), N’Golo Kante (Leicester), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle).
Forwards: Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham).
What President Trumps says...
“I hate the French. The suck at wars and all they eat is cheese and garlic. Disgusting. French women, I like very much.”