Star-studded Les Bleus will take some stopping
EURO 2020 GROUP F
IN the last five years France have finished as runners-up at Euro 2016, won the 2018 World Cup and booked their place in the next Nations League finals and everything seems to be in place for more success in 2021. Experienced coach Didier Deschamps is reluctant to tinker with a winning formula and of the 26 players called up to the squad for Euro 2020, 14 were part of the side who lifted the World Cup five years ago. That said, arguably the most surprising player selection made by any manager going into this summer’s tournament was the Frenchman’s recalling of Karim Benzema, six years after the forward was exiled from the national set-up. Although his side failed to win a major trophy, Benzema has just enjoyed his strongest season in a Real Madrid shirt and will complement an attack featuring tricky forward Antoine Griezmann and arguably the greatest young player in world football Kylian Mbappe. Defender Presnel Kimpembe has replaced Samuel Umtiti at the heart of defence while Adrien Rabiot is expected to supersede Blaise Matuidi as a central midfielder on the flank in the team’s asymmetrical system. But otherwise this is the same France that the rest of Europe have grown to fear. In a Nations League group comprising Portugal, Croatia and Sweden, France won five and drew one of their six fixtures and they are unbeaten in their last 16 competitive assignments. Les Bleus have also not lost at a major tournament inside 90 minutes since the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They will not have home advantage in any of their group games but it will take more than unfamiliar surroundings to fluster a star-studded group with the experience and management to go all the way once again.