Euro 2016 Group A

France

10 June - Romania (8pm GMT, Stade de France, Saint-Denis)
15 June - Albania (8pm GMT, Stade Velodrome, Marseille)
19 June - Switzerland (8pm GMT, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille)
 

France look to overcome high expectations, a team rebellion, a blackmailing scandal and even Laurent Koscielny to claim their European Championship in France. Edo Dalmonte wonders if they can do it.

Où vont Les Bleus?

Beyond losing the World Cup final to Italy in 2006, it's been a rocky ride for France since Euro 2000: as if three group stage eliminations weren't bad enough, the team's refusal to train under Raymond Domenech at the 2010 World Cup, not to mention the recent Benzema blackmailing scandal, have disillusioned many fans. This tournament won't just be the chance for the nation to get together again after last Autumn's repugnant terrorist attacks: it will also be Les Bleus' chance to seek forgiveness.

Coach: Didier Deschamps — Attacking coach, good motivator, rescued a post-Calciopoli Juventus from Serie B. Took a spectacular Monaco side to the 2004 Champions League final, led Marseille to a Ligue 1 title. Teams tend to be streaky, however.

Preferred XI: Lloris; Sagna, Varane, Koscielny, Evra; Pogba, L. Diarra, Matuidi; Griezmann, Giroud, Martial

Deschamps has tinkered (even trying the diamond!) and rotated a lot of late, with Dimitri Payet and N'Golo Kante' two who are just as likely to start. The defence looks very creaky, conceding for to Belgium and two to Russia, Holland and England.

It says a lot that it's worse off for Mamadou Sakho's drug suspension, and that the up-and-down Raphael Varane is never in doubt.

Look out for: Deschamps has slowly introduced a pacy, passing style which could be exactly what France need to break down their defensive opponents. Watch out of striker Olivier Giroud, who whilst not doing much at Arsenal is considered a perfect foil for wingers like Antoine Griezmann and Antony Martial. The full-backs aren't very attacking, but Lassana Diarra and Blaise Matuidi will harry anything that moves in midfield. Though Juventus icon Paul Pogba is key to France's chances, Griezmann has shown that he can drag the team by the scruff of the neck, as he does with Atletico in Champions League football.

Did you know?

  • Wondering what Andre-Pierre Gignac is doing there? He's scored 34 goals in 49 games for Tigres and France this season, including two goals and two assists in as many games for his country. Hopefully people will start taking the Liga MX seriously now!
  • Think this is a young team? Maybe not as much as you think. Eight of Didier Deschamps's 23-man squad are aged 30 or above, three more are 29. Five out of eight defenders are 30+.
  • Giroud may have gone scoreless in 15 straight Arsenal games, and may not look like he's doing much, but he's still scored 5 goals in 12 games. For his country. At least he works hard, unlike the suspended Karim Benzema.

France versus…

…Romania P 15 W 7 D 5 L 3 F 19 A 15

…Albania P 3 W 2 D 0 L 1 F 3 A 2

…Switzerland P24 W 9 D 3 L 12 F 38 A 45

Stats

Population: 66.6m
Nickname: Les Bleus, Les Tricolores, La Selection
Calcio fans might remember... Zindedine Zidane - Juventus (1996-2001)
Top Division: Ligue 1
FIFA World Ranking: 21
International honours: World Cup (1998), European Championship (1984, 2000), Confederations Cup (2001, 2003)
Most capped player: Lilian Thuram (142)
Leading international scorer: Thierry Henry (51)

France at the European Championships:

1960 - Semi-finals
1964 - Did not qualify
1968 - Did not qualify
1972 - Did not qualify
1976 - Did not qualify
1980 - Did not qualify
1984 – Champions
1988 – Did not qualify
1992 – Group Stages
1996 – Quarter-finals
2000 – Champions
2004 – Quarter-finals
2008 – Group Stages
2012 - Quarter-finals

How they got to Euro 2016: France qualified automatically as hosts. They really could have done with more games. Being the host can be a bit of a curse.