, Euro 2020 Preview: Why France Is The Big Favorite For The Trophy, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Euro 2020 Preview: Why France Is The Big Favorite For The Trophy

One year later than expected, the 2020 European Championships gets underway today (yes, even though it is 2021) with world champions France the big favorite.

It is a familiar position for France. It was the favorite as host of Euro 2016, but suffered a surprise defeat to Portugal in the final, and again at the 2018 World Cup, where it lifted the trophy.

France is hunting back-to-back tournament wins and a third European Championship, a competition it last won in 2000. Here’s why France looks set to lift the trophy on July 11.

Squad depth

Coach Didier Deschamps has a hugely impressive squad to call on. His favored first-choice 11 is the best in the tournament and looks well balanced. The experienced goalkeeper Hugo LLoris is behind a strong central defensive pairing of Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe. The key midfield pairing is mercurial but supremely talented Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, fresh from a Champions League final that confirmed him as best in the world in his position.

In attack, France really is spoilt. FC Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann and Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé are expected to form a fearsome trio with returning Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema (more on him below).

In a tournament where injuries to fatigued players seem inevitable, France could also field an entire second 11 which would probably go far in the competition. The rapid Ousmane Dembélé and wily Giroud are excellent attacking options to bring on. The fact they, and players like Sevilla’s impressive centre-back Jules Koundé, are unlikely to start matches shows the rich well of resources at Deschamps’s disposal.

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Experience

A large number of the players in Deschamps’s squad were World Cup winners three years ago. They know what it takes to reach the final of a major tournament and how to handle the pressure when they get there.

, Euro 2020 Preview: Why France Is The Big Favorite For The Trophy, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Most of the expected first 11 also have recent experience of playing in the most important club matches in Europe, including the Champions League final. Captain Lloris is a cool head and proven leader for club and country.

After a draining season, experience will be crucial for navigating the tournament and France have plenty.

Can anything stop France?

One factor against Les Bleus is its group. Drawn in what is certainly Euro 2020’s “group of death”, France will play Germany, Euro 2016 nemesis Portugal and Hungary in Budapest. France is still expected to qualify for the knockout stages, particularly as this extended tournament of 24 teams makes it possible to advance even with a slip-up. But the first match on June 15 against a Germany with something to prove could create jitters should France lose.

There are other strong teams outside Group F too. England has a youthful and attacking side, Portugal and Spain brim with technical quality, Belgium is ranked number one in the world and Italy is undefeated for 27 matches. In the knockout stage, where anything can happen in a one-off match between fatigued players, it isn’t inconceivable France could be sent home.

Then there is the question of whether the most likely thing to stop France is France itself. The shock call-up for Benzema is the first he has received since 2015. That was because he was allegedly involved in a sex-tape blackmail case against a former teammate. Benzema denies wrongdoing. For all his undoubted goalscoring talent, how will the introduction of the 33-year-old into a well-established group change the dynamic, if at all?

There is also some apparent tension between star man Mbappe and Giroud. Comments from Giroud after France’s win over Bulgaria this week were interpreted as a dig at Mbappe and his failure to pass Giroud the ball. While it has made headlines, there is a feeling this “feud” may have been exaggerated.

If France can avoid distractions like this, this time next month it will be a surprise to see any other nation crowned champions of Europe.

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