SportsKeeda takes a look at one of the EURO 2012 contenders: France. Laurent Blanc’s men will be looking to win the competition for the first time since their victory back in 2000.
France may be 16th in the FIFA World Rankings but don’t let that and their dreadful performances under ex-coach Raymond Domenech from 2008-2010 hinder your image of them – they are still heavyweights and are quite possibly the dark horses of the competition. Laurent Blanc has brought back possession-retaining and attack-minded football for the Les Bleus and he has played a major part in the turnaround of France’s fortunes since being appointed as manager after the dismal 2010 World Cup campaign.
France are one of the most successful national footballing sides today, having won the World Cup (1998), EURO (1984 & 2000) and Confederations Cup (2001 & 2003). They have also reached the semi-final stage of the World Cup on 5 occasions out of the 13 they’ve participated in while finishing runners-up in the 2006 World Cup. The last time Les Bleus were 1st in the FIFA rankings was in May 2002; however, France’s lowest FIFA ranking is an astonishing 27th, which indicates how consistent the team has been over the last few decades.
Laurent Blanc, who is a World Cup-winning player for France (having been part of the victorious team in 1998), is the current manager of the France national team. He has been nicknamed “Le Président” due to his leadership skills. Having been appointed as the successor to the faltering Domenech, Blanc can boast of a short but largely successful managerial career with Bordeaux, where in his first season (2007-2008) he led the French side to 2nd position, winning the ‘Manager of the year’ award along the way. In his second season in charge, he helped Bordeaux win the French League 3 points clear of Marseille, while also winning the Coupe de la Ligue. In his final season, he led Bordeaux to the Champions League quarterfinals.
While Blanc did lose his first game in charge of France, to Norway at home (albeit with a lot of suspended first team players), his managerial record for France has been outstanding. He has lost only twice in 20 games in charge – a period which has seen Blanc mastermind wins over England (away), Germany (away) and Brazil (home) in friendlies as well as topping France’s EURO 2012 qualifying group. His appointment by the FFF seems vindicated, at least for now.
Striker Karim Benzema is definitely the star player for France who will hope to spearhead them to glory this summer. After a stuttering start to his Real Madrid career, which saw him getting snubbed at the 2010 World Cup, Benzema has become a new player, and much credit for that has to go to Real Madrid and the guidance of the likes of Jose Mourinho and Zinedine Zidane. The striker has scored a career-best 32 goals this season, while also assisting 15 times in 52 games, for a total direct contribution of 47 goals.
Other key players to watch out for are Rennes’ holding midfelder Yann M’Vila (who has been a fixture in Blanc’s side since his debut in August 2010), the rejuvenated Bayern winger Franck Ribery, and Manchester City‘s creative attacking midfielder, Samir Nasri.
While France have good depth in their squad, there are quite a few absentees in the preliminary squad that Blanc released. Arsenal‘s right back Bacary Sagna, who has been a fixture in the team, will miss out due to a broken leg, as will his teammate, midfielder Abou Diaby, who Blanc rates very highly. Tottenham center back Younes Kaboul also misses out due to his knee injury, while Barcelona left back Abidal will have to sit out of the tournament (and reportedly the rest of his football career) due to a liver transplant.
Notable players to have missed out on the preliminary squad:
Real Madrid’s Lassana Diarra
Toulouse’s Étienne Capoue
Lyon’s Maxime Gonalons
Tottenham’s Louis Saha
QPR’s Djibril Cisse
Aston Villa’s Charles N’Zogbia.
Blanc has experimented with a few formations in the past two years for France, but the likely formation is the modern 4-2-3-1 system, which is a more flexible version of the 4-3-3 (which has 4 at the back, 3 in midfield and 3 up front).
The possible lineup this summer (with injuries and absentees in mind) will be:
Lloris – Debuchy, Rami, Koscielny, Clichy – Alou Diarra, M’Vila, Nasri – Remy, Benzema, Ribery.
Under Blanc, France play a short-passing, possession-retaining and attack-minded game which makes it very hard for teams to dominate against them.
Les Bleus are blessed with brilliant attacking options in the form of Benzema, Giroud and Remy, who have 77 goals between them this season domestically, while also possessing naturally talented and skillful players with the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri, Marvin Martin and Yoann Gourcuff.
A weakness in the France team, however, is the inexperience at national level, particularly in midfield. One can also say that the team isn’t as well-coordinated as, say, the German team.
Everyone has been going on and on about the possible winners of EURO 2012 being either Germany, Spain or Holland. But in my opinion, France are more than capable of winning it. They’re not a team that can be dominated easily by the likes of Spain, and they have already shown their prowess by beating one of the tournament favorites in Germany in a friendly (and away from home at that). With a smart, tactically astute and organized manager in Blanc, France can pull off a few surprises this summer, especially with the low expectations surrounding them. The glory days can return for Les Bleus if they are to win the tournament this summer, because should they emerge victorious this time, they will be in a good position to defend their crown in 4 years’ time, with France hosting EURO 2016.