When France triumphed in the 2018 World Cup final, there were feelings of joy and relief in equal measure. Many felt that Didier Deschamps’ side had thrown away the chance of victory at Euro 2016 two years earlier, where an extra-time goal from Éder meant the title went to second-favourites Portugal. France were left to lick their wounds, but the World Cup triumph in Moscow provided the perfect antidote to that Paris disappointment.
Now, attention turns to Euro 2020, which has been pushed back a year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. France are one of the favourites in the odds on Euro winner, and have a chance to make it three major international finals on the spin, backing up their World Cup success by conquering the European Championships too. The question is, can they achieve that sensational double, or are they due a bit of a blip?
Group of death
It certainly won’t be easy, as France have landed in by far the toughest group of the competition. Les Bleus qualified by finishing top of a group that contained Euro 2016 foes Portugal, but now the two sides have been paired together in the tournament proper, with Germany and Hungary making up this tournament’s group of death.
France’s first game of the competition is against Germany in Munich, and if they can get a good result there, you’d expect their passage to be relatively straightforward. However, if Germany were to make the most of home advantage and earn the win, the pressure would really build on France to deliver in the next two matches.
Deschamps’ men take on Portugal in the final group game in Budapest, and that could well be the key fixture in the group. Of course, the fact that there is potential for the third-placed team to advance to the knockout stage means the pressure is lessened somewhat, but France will still be keen to get off on the right foot against Germany.
Talent and knowhow
Of course, there is plenty in France’s favour, namely the riches of talent they have in their squad. Kylian Mbappé is just about the hottest prospect in Europe right now, and if the Paris Saint-Germain forward can produce his best football for Les Bleus this summer, they’ll be very difficult to stop.
The likes of Antoine Griezmann, N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane boast the experience of deep runs at past World Cups and European Championships, and that experience could prove vital if France can make it to the latter stages. It is the blend of talent and experience that makes France so dangerous this summer, and if Deschamps can find the right balance then they’ll be in with a real chance.
There will also be a feeling among the squad that they have unfinished business at this particular tournament, after the agony of losing to Portugal in extra time five years ago. It was one that got away, and although they redeemed themselves by winning the World Cup in Russia, players of this calibre are never satisfied, and France will have their sights firmly set on lifting the European Championships trophy at Wembley on July 11th.