Euro 2016: France have real chance of copying 1998 success

Matt Haynes | November 13, 2015

Tournament hosts France are joint 7/2 favourites with Coral to win Euro 2016 and while this may come as a surprise to some people, those who have paid attention, will notice that they now have an increasing amount of players who have crept into the world class bracket.

Awesome attack

A couple of years ago, France could only really consider Karim Benzema to be the star of the show; however, since then the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Alexandre Lacazette have come to the fore.

There can even be a case made for Kingsley Coman, who under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, has emerged into one of the most exciting talents in Europe. Having moved to the German champions from Italian champions Juventus in the summer on loan, Coman found himself playing a part a lot sooner than many would have expected, including himself, due to wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben being injured.

Slotting seamlessly into Bayern’s prolific attacking quintet, Coman has subsequently two goals and assists apiece in seven Bundesliga outings.

Speaking ahead of his country’s friendly with Germany, the 19-year-old said: “I left to have a chance in a team that suits me better, Bayern’s style of play suits me better than Juventus.

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“To say that I knew I was going to be called up to the France senior squad by playing at Bayern and to play as much as I have? I didn’t know that.

“I knew that I’d have more of a chance and that the system would suit my qualities better. That’s why I left but I didn’t know that I’d be here today. It’s happened very quickly and I’m very happy.”

Coman can go from strength to strength under Guardiola, who has developed some of the best players in the world during his coaching career. It is also great news for France, adding to an array of talented striking options.

And then there is Anthony Martial, who exploded onto the scene at Manchester United, following his blockbuster move from Monaco. While Benzema tends to operate more centrally than the aforementioned four, it gives France fantastic options, while Olivier Giroud makes a brilliant backup.

Midfield might

While Les Bleus are yet to find an heir apparent to Zinedine Zidane, arguably one of the best players of the modern game, there are plenty of candidates to step into Patrick Vieira’s shoes. Paul Pogba is the one who naturally springs to mind; the all-action midfielder offers plenty, most of all dynamism and, with PSG’s Blaise Matuidi available to hold things together, a la Claude Makelele, he can be a driving force.

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West Ham’s Dimtri Payet perhaps is the closest to potentially having the same effect that Zidane had on France, though is nowhere near him in terms of being a match winner on the global stage. He has, though, been a revelation for the Hammers this season, having moved there from Marseille in the summer, picking up where he left off.

Last season, he made 21 assists in Ligue 1 (fourth highest in Europe) scoring seven goals and created 135 chances for teammates (the highest in Europe’s top five leagues) and until sustaining injury was prolific for the Hammers, scoring five and creating three goals in 12 Premier League matches.

In Morgan Schneiderlin though, this could be the player who can add a perfect blend of power, tenacity and flair. His inclusion in any starting lineup, rather makes a case for a diamond system, with Benzema and likely Griezmann leading the line.

Defensive dominance

France have always had decent defenders. Going back to the days of Laurent Blanc and Marcel Desailly, this was a rearguard combination which kept the world’s best attackers at bay. During the France ’98 World Cup, Les Bleus came up against a Brazil side in the final littered with talent, recording a comprehensive 3-0 victory.

While Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane has an abundance of potential, he is not yet at world-class level, though playing alongside Sergio Ramos for Los Blancos can only be favourable. In Laurent Koscielny, though, they have a player who comes up against some of the world’s best on a weekly basis, while Eliaquim Mangala has also started to show his potential.

With Hugo Lloris behind them in goal, though, they have a strong commander, who is also a sublime shot-stopper. If France click next summer, they certainly have a squad capable of living up to their tags of joint-favourites.


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