Benzema’s dynamism to Lloris’ lack of form: Assessing France’s chances in Euro 2020
World Cup winners France will be one of the favourites to lift the UEFA Euro 2020 title as manager Didier Deschamps aims to lead his star-studded squad to their first European Championship in 21 years.
The French team’s smooth run to their World Cup triumph in 2018 was a testament to a golden generation of stars – which includes Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and more – emerging to dominate world football.
A star-studded squad with plenty of big-match experience within their ranks, the French national team will carry a threat from every position and are a side that most opposition outfits will be keen to avoid.
To make things even more exciting, Les Bleus are pitted against Hungary, Germany and reigning European champions Portugal in the group of death this Euros.
France squad for Euro 2020
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda , Mike Maignan
Defenders: Benjamin Pavard, Leo Dubois, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez, Lucas Digne, Clement Lenglet, Kurt Zouma
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Corentin Tolisso, Thomas Lemar, Moussa Sissoko
Attackers: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, Marcus Thuram, Kingsley Coman, Wissam Ben Yedder, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele
SWOT Analysis of France Euro 2020 squad
Contrary to popular belief, the French national team isn’t overly reliant on their attacking players. Of course, having some of the best forwards in world football does give France an edge, but numerous other sides could field an equally potent, if not popular, attacking trio up top.
France’s real strength lies in their organization and the magnificent variety of their midfield. Deschamps would come to the Euros knowing that he has multiple back-up plans and formations to fall back on thanks to their versatile midfield. From a destroyer to an anchorman to box-to-box midfielders, France possess different types of midfield generals in their squad.
Having N’Golo Kante and Pogba in the 4-2-3-1 midfield set-up worked wonders for France in the 2018 World Cup. Playing in a two-man pivot in the midfield engine room, the duo was seen providing defensive cushion as well as linking play in offence. The balance provided by Kante and Pogba is a key component of the spine in Deschamps’ French setup.
One look at the French squad and all would agree that they don't have a visible weakness as such. However, Deschamps will be worried with his defence, not because of their lack of talents but rather a lack of match sharpness and for some, a lack of success at the club level.
Their solid defence was the foundation upon which their World Cup success was built and Deschamps will need his backline as well as his defensive-minded players to be on top of their game for success in the Euros.
Apart from Kurt Zouma, who won the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea and Bundesliga winner Bayern Munich star Benjamin Pavard, none of the defenders in the France squad won major silverware last season. The likes of Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe didn’t win their respective domestic leagues and go into the Euros on the back of failed European campaigns as well.
France’s first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris endured a poor campaign with Tottenham Hotspur too, which is why Deschamps must ensure that he gets his talented defenders playing to their potential and becoming difficult to breach, which was one of the hallmarks during their FIFA World Cup triumph in 2018.
While playing Hungary, Germany and Portugal in the group stages will test France’s resolve, the team won’t get a better chance at winning the UEFA Euros than this time. With little to no injury concerns on the table and the squad brimming with confidence, the UEFA Euro 2020 is France’s to lose.
Well padded at every position of the field, France boast perhaps the best squad in the tournament. To further help their cause, the two most successful teams at the Euros, Germany and Spain, are undergoing a transition phase and aren’t expected to go the distance.
The return of Karim Benzema following a six-year hiatus from international football provides much-needed finesse to the already well-equipped French attack. With the likes of the prodigious Mbappe, Dembele and Kingsley Coman injecting pace from the wide areas, France had to rely on Olivier Giroud and Griezmann to act as the foxes in the box.
However, the availability of the Real Madrid forward improves the forward position exponentially. The fact that Deschamps dared to play a two-man forward against Wales in an international friendly against Wales last Wednesday and won it 3-0, only shows the efficacy that Benzema brings to the line-up. One of France's biggest threats will be their four-dimensional attack and opposition sides will be wary of the damage it’s capable of inflicting.
Written by: Subhayan Dutta
Featured Image: AFP/ Franck Fife