Hard to look past France as Euro 2016 winners
Hosts France will kick-off Euro 2016 against Romania on Friday June 10th and with the talent at their disposal you can understand the optimism and hope that they can win another major tournament on home soil. They finished off their warm-up preparations with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Scotland and you can see the signs that Didier Deschamps side are beginning to fire at just the right time.
Despite not needing to qualify it has still been a fairly eventful past year or so for the French. The notable fallout between Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema has shocked the world, with the Real Madrid man told he will not play for the national team until the court case has cleared. His absence is a blow for the French, no doubt, who wouldn’t miss one of the best number nine’s in the world? However, Deschamps has shown a lot of faith in Olivier Giroud, and despite criticism from fans, the Arsenal forward will lead the line and try to soften the blow of Benzema missing out. Another late issue has arisen in central defence. The classy Raphael Varane, team mate of Benzema in Madrid, has been ruled out through injury and his place went to Adil Rami of Sevilla. Rami is an extremely effective defender, powerful and reliable however he does not possess the coolness and composure that Varane does with the ball when coming out of defence. Another centre-half who was likely to feature in the squad was Mamadou Sakho, he failed a drugs test for Liverpool towards the end of the season. With that in mind, Rami will partner Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal when the games begin and that is still an impressive pairing, and their strengths appear to complement one another.
Hugo Lloris to guard France to Euro Victory
If they were the issues surrounding the squad, it’s now time to look at the positives, and the quality in this side is formidable. Hugo Lloris is a first class goalkeeper, and Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna are both experienced, reliable full-backs but when you get to the midfield the class really begins to show. Deschamps is a 4-3-3 manager and will line up that way against Romania, with the midfield trio expected to be N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, a truly excellent combination. It is hard to imagine a midfield in world football that possesses such athleticism and powerful running ability. Quite simply, out of possession they won’t give opponents a second. Kante has shone at Leicester for his ability to intercept and break up attacks whilst Matuidi is a terrific box-to-box player, and Pogba has the magic. The Juventus man will have to play a big part if France are to win it, you would imagine, but he has the ability to do so.
Further up the field and the options are still frightening. Giroud will lead the line and is someone who’s ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play might be under-appreciated. And the quality on the wings is where the matches can be won for the French. Antoine Griezmann, the main man at Atletico Madrid, and probably one of the top players in the world after Messi and Ronaldo, should occupy the inside right position, with Dimitri Payet, the free-kick specialist who lit up the Premier League coming in from the left. If that isn’t enough, Deschamps could opt to play the explosive duo of Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial in their place, both terrific footballers and they demonstrate the depth the French have.
When it comes to the group, France couldn’t have asked for much more. Switzerland and Albania will come after the opener against Romania and to be honest winning the group looks a formality. The firepower they have up front should be enough to blow all of those three sides away and then the serious stuff will begin for Deschamps. You get the feeling a semi-final place is the absolute minimum expected but deep down the fans will know they should go one further than that. You can find the latest odds and offers for all the French games here, will you back the boys in blue to go all the way?
The hosts are the favourites and it’s easy to see why. They look a fairly complete team and it’s hard to envisage them not going a long way in the tournament. The quality on show combined with a passionate home backing means that the French are the ones to stop this summer.