Young stars are key to France's chances at Euro 2016
Euro 2016 Preview: France
France have hosted two European Championships before. The Soviet Union won one and France won the other. Seeing as the Soviet Union no longer exists that makes technically France the only country in existence to have won the European Championship on French soil. Including the 1998 World Cup, France have won now the last two major tournaments which they’ve hosted.
It’s also a good thing that they didn’t decide to co-host the tournament. Five of the last six co-hosts didn’t even make it out of their group whereas every sole host since the introduction of a group stage has made it to the semi-finals at least.
- France to reach the semi-finals –
2. Paul Pogba
A player who is being linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid for sums rumoured to be as high as £100m. A powerful and athletic midfielder with a thunderous shot and the ability to power forward at pace with the ball at his feet. To date he has yet to shine on the biggest of stages, most notably failing to make any impact in Juventus’ Champions league final loss to Barcelona last season. At just 23 years of age he certainly has time on his side and, like Zinedine Zidane in 1998, he could make a name for himself at an international tournament on home soil.
- 8 goals and 12 assists in 35 Serie A games
With 8 goals and 12 assist in Serie A last season he will be a key component to France’s attacking play. France’s midfield isn’t exactly stuffed with attacking flair so a lot rests on Pogba’s broad shoulders. More than anything he has the ability to inspire his team-mates and the home supporters. If he shines this summer then he can carry this French team all the way, if not then they’re probably in trouble. The key component to France’s chances.
- Paul Pogba to be Player of the Tournament –
3. No Karim Benzema
What? Not having their best striker is supposed to be a good thing? Yes it’s true that the Real Madrid front man hit 30 goals in 38 appearances for club and country this season and has 10 in his last 17 for France but he also got himself involved in the blackmail of a team-mate over an alleged sex tape. Allegedly. This is only a few years after being accused of having sex with an underage prostitute. Allegedly?
He has been accused of being arrogant by international team-mates in the past, which stereotypically is about the same as an Italian calling you a bit sleazy or an Irishman suggesting you should ease up on the Guinness. If any player is going to cause internal conflict he’d be at the top of the list. He might win you a game with his individual brilliance but his ego can undermine the confidence of his team-mates and fracture the unity of the squad as a whole.
- France to win Euro 2016 –
4. Antoine Griezmann
With no Benzema and Alexandre Lacazette unfancied by Didier Deshamps the Atletico Madrid striker should be the preferred frontman. He has scored 22 league goals in each of last two seasons as well as 7 goals in 12 Champions League games last season. If he starts the group games then he’s worth a bet to be the tournament’s top goalscorer. Unlike Olivier Giroud Gignac he offers more pace and mobility up front. Playing under Diego Simeone means he used to working hard for ninety minutes, a valuable asset on a stage where passengers can be fatal. At 25 he’s also just approaching his peak years and he’s ripe to make a big impact for his country.
5. Switzerland, Albania and Romania.
When France struggle at a major tournament they tend to fail to get out of their group. Not only have they been handed a plum group but thanks to the expanding tournament 16 of 24 teams will qualify from the group stage. Not even the French can whip up enough turmoil in their squad to mess this one up. A successful group will get the home crowd riled up and believing. French fans can be slow to get going but once they get behind their team they can become a crucial factor in success for Les Bleus.
- France to win Group A –
6. Kinglsey Coman
A bonus reason to think favourably of France’s chances. Talent and development-wise it could be argued that Anthony Martial is better placed to catch the eye. However everything Coman has touched so far in his career has turned to gold. With just 41 league games under his belt he has played in four title winning sides in three different leagues. At 19 years of age he already has nine medals to his name, albeit he played miniscule roles in many of those campaigns. It may simply be enough to give him a run-out at the end of a group game to tap in to his ridiculously good fortune. Kinglsey Coman, European Championship winner. Sounds about par for the course in this young man’s fledgling career.