Picking the final squad for the Euro which the French are hosting was probably a very difficult job for the manager Didier Deschamps because of the number of quality players eligible to represent France. When the final squad came out there were a few surprises, but most of the players in the squad have earned their place with some scintilating performances.
Due to varied reasons, many ‘world-class’ players will not feature for the host nation at the Euro and a 23-man squad comprising entirely of such players will blow your mind. In fact, one has to argue if Deschamps has picked the best possible squad.
Given below is the final 23-man squad Deschamps will use during Euro.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Benoit Costil (Stade Rennais)
Defenders: Samuel Umtiti (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Adil Rami (Sevilla), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Lucas Digne (AS Roma), Christophe Jallet (Lyon)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Juventus), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), N'Golo Kante (Leicester), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Dimitri Payet (West Ham), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Andre-Pierre Gignac (UANL Tigres)
Now let’s see if this squad is better or worse than the one comprising of players who are missing out.
Alphonse Areola (PSG), Stephane Ruffier (St. Etienne) and Ludovic Butelle (Club Brugge)
Alphonse Areola of PSG is one the best young keepers in Europe. The 23-year-old spent last season on loan at Villarreal and was key to the Spanish club’s impressive record which eventually helped them clinch a Champions League berth. He conceded just 26 goals in 32 league games last season while keeping 15 clean sheets. He also finished third in the race for the Zamora trophy awarded to the La Liga keeper with the best ‘goal conceded to games ratio’ behind Jan Oblak and Claudio Bravo.
The experienced Stephane Ruffier of St. Etienne had a decent season last time around and kept 16 clean sheets. Ruffier was called up to the senior side for the FIFA World Cup 2010 as a late replacement for Cedric Carrasso, but he couldn’t be registered with the squad. However, he was part of the squad that travelled to Brazil for the 2014 edition.
Ludovic Butelle is a relatively unknown player to many fans and has never represented the France’s senior side. However, the player deserves a mention as he kept 11 clean sheets in 19 games in Ligue 1 for mid-table club Angers in the first half of last season and later moved to Belgium to play for Club Brugge for whom he kept 10 clean sheets in 18 games.
Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal), Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Laywin Kurzawa (PSG), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea), Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao) and Benoit Tremoulinas (Sevilla)
Three defenders who started regularly for France during the FIFA World Cup 2014 are not part of the team that will participate in Euro. The first is Mathieu Debuchy of Arsenal who lost his place in his club to young Hector Bellerin. Debuchy moved to Bordeaux on loan in January, but a thigh injury in May ruled him out of the reckoning.
Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane, who were the first choice centre-backs during the World Cup didn’t find a place in the 23 either. While the former was not picked due to his on-going case related to a failed drug test, the latter had to pull out of the squad due to injury. Varane’s and Sakho’s absence should have been a perfect opportunity for young Laporte and Zouma to cement their place in the French squad, but both players were injured before the teams were announced. Similarly, another quality player who will miss the tournament through injury is Sevilla’s left-back Benoit Tremoulinas.
Gael Clichy is Manchester City’s first choice left back, but the 30-year-old was overlooked by Deschamps for the World Cup as well. Similarly, another quality full back who is missing out is Laywin Kurzawa of PSG. Kurzawa replaced Lucas Digne at PSG, however, Digne has made the final cut while Kurzawa wasn’t even part of the probable list.
Lassana Diarra (Marseille), Geoferry Kondogbia (Inter Milan), Adrien Rabiot (PSG), Maxime Gonalons (Lyon), Mathieu Valbuena (Lyon) and Samir Nasri (Manchester City)
Former Real Madrid player Lassana Diarra, was part of the initial squad named by Deschamps, but he had to pull out of the team because of an injury and Morgan Schneiderlin was named as his replacement.
Promising young midfielders Geoffery Kondogbia and Adrien Rabiot are two notable names missing from the final roster. Kondogbia has represented the senior team before, but his move to Inter last summer hasn’t helped his international career. On the contrary, Rabiot has done brilliantly for PSG recently and is knocking on the first team door.
Lyon’s captain Maxime Gonalons is another central midfielder who didn’t make the cut. Gonalons has represented the senior team on seven occasions with the most recent call-up coming last year against Albania.
Mathieu Valbuena meanwhile was part of a sex-tape scandal which put a huge stain on France’s football team and he hasn’t been selected since the incident. Samir Nasri was also a regular for France earlier, but Deschamps opted not to call-up the controversial midfielder for the World Cup. Nasri later opted to retire from the team as long as Deschamps is in charge.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund), Hatem Ben Arfa (Nice), Nabil Fekir (Lyon) and Kevin Gameiro (Sevilla)
France are leaving their best striker, Karim Benzema, at home for the Euros. Benzema was the accused in a sex-tape issue involving his fellow countryman Valbuena and one has to assume that Deschamps chose to drop the Real Madrid man because of the same. He finished last season with 31 goals and 8 assists to his name and helped Real Madrid win the Champions League.
Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon had a slow start to the season last time around after an explosive season in 2014/15. Despite this, he finished the season with 21 league goals and as the second highest scorer in the league.
Ben Arfa was another player who impressed in Ligue 1 this season. The former Newcastle man was finally doing justice to his talent and ended the season with 17 league goals which is the fourth highest in the league. His performance earned him a recall to the senior side earlier but was surprisingly excluded from the final squad.
Youngsters Nabil Fekir and Ousmane Dembele are two players who are sure to play a big role in the future of the French national team but couldn’t make the cut this around. Fekir was a favourite of Deschamps, but a ligament injury he suffered during the early part of last season while on international duty was a major reason behind his exclusion as he missed most of the season. Dembele’s case is different because he gained a lot of media attention after scoring 12 goals and providing 5 assists at such a young age and his performance earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund, but wasn’t enough to get selected for France.
The final name on the list is that of Kevin Gameiro who inspired Sevilla to another Europa League title. The former PSG man scored 29 goals and provided 7 assists in all competitions and was still surprisingly overlooked for the Euro.
Which squad is better?
In the goalkeeping department, there is no issue with the squad that Deschamps has picked as Hugo Lloris is easily the best keeper they have and he is sure to start for them in goal. Steve Mandanda will be a reliable number 2. However, Deschamps could have picked young Areola instead of Costil as the third choice keeper as it would have been a great learning curve for the youngster.
When it comes to defence, one cannot help but feel sorry for France. They are without some of their best defenders due to reasons beyond their control and there is no doubt that the French defence is not the best possible one.
In midfield, the reason behind the exclusion of the player not featuring in Euros is the quality of the players in the side. It is very difficult for the ones not in the squad to get picked ahead of the likes of Pogba, Matuidi, Kante, Payet, Cabaye and Schneiderlin. However, the inclusion of Sissoko is questionable as he didn’t have a great season with relegated Newcastle.
There is no doubt that France have left out some of their best forwards for the tournament. Benzema, Gameiro, Ben Arfa and Lacazette have had much better seasons than Giroud. They have also plied their trade in a Europe as opposed to Gignac who plays in Mexico. The inclusion of young Coman instead of Dembele is also a matter that divides opinion. However, the two players who have earned their place in the final squad are Griezmann and Martial.
The squad that’s not playing in Euro looks the better one in defence and attack, while the one that is featuring in Euro looks better in midfield and between the posts. What this highlights is the quality of players France possesses and the incredible depth they have. We are probably looking at France’s golden generation.