Time for the next team profile, and this time I’m looking at the hosts, France.
It’s been 18 years since France hosted (and won) the 1998 World Cup, and 16 years since they triumphed at Euro 2000. Since then, they have been decidedly up and down with their tournament form. In 2002 they crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage, something they would repeat in 2010, but in-between they would reach the 2006 World Cup final, and they were quarter-finalists in Brazil in 2014.
The last time the French hosted the Euros (in 1984) they won it, whilst since their last success they have been quarter-finalists in 2004, out at the group stage in 2008 and out in the quarter finals again in 2012. All of this adds up to France being hard to predict.
Much has been made of Juventus star Paul Pogba, who has become a highly rated and sought after midfielder. He is skillful and capable of scoring goals, whilst alongside him could be West Ham’s Dimitri Payet, who has been a revelation this season (as well as something of a dead ball specialist). Patrice Evra (also of Juventus) is an experienced defender whilst Karim Benzema is an accomplished goal scorer for Real Madrid. Joining him upfront could be Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, though Manchester United youngster Anthony Martial has been quite good this season and might get an opportunity.
It would be fair to say that this French side doesn’t stand out in the way previous teams have. They once had the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram and of course Zinedine Zidane in their ranks (to name but a few). I can’t help but think this French side is still developing, and therefore winning the tournament may be a step beyond them. They will be in the latter stages, but they won’t win it.