Host of the Euro 2016 France have won two out of two so far but are they good enough to match the achievements of the World Cup winning squad of 1998 and the European Championship side of 2000?
Africa’s largest football portal 366football.com x-rays the current French team and weighs up its potential as likely winners of the current European Championship on home soil.
FRANCE 1998 FIFA WORLD CUP
France were Captained by current Gaffer Didier Deschamps to that Epic World Cup win. They played a remarkable final against Brazil who were massive favourites but the Les Bleus had a secret weapon in Zinedine Zidane who stole the show.
The Algerian born star scored twice in the final as France ran out 3-0 winners in front of joyful home fans and that set the tone for a great turnaround for French football if you consider that they even failed to qualify for the USA 94’ tournament.
The 98’ team had the likes of Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Thierry Henry, Youri Djorkaeff, Laurent Blanc, Patrick Vieira, Bixente Lizarazu, Lilian Thuram, David Trezeguet, Emmanuel Petit, Christian Karembeu,Frank Lebœuf, and Robert Pirès – regarded as the finest generation of French footballers.
BELGIUM & NETHERLAND 2000 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
France were overwhelming favourites to win the tournament having won the World Cup two years earlier and went into the competition with virtually the same team and one notable addition, in the person of Nicolas Anelka who was playing for Real Madrid as at the time.
The Les Bleus did not disappoint as they beat all-comers to the title making them the first team to hold both the World Cup and the European Championship since West Germany in 1974.
However, just like at the World Cup, Zinedine Zidane was the star of the occasion as he grabbed a memorable free kick goal against Spain in the quarter-final before scoring a golden goal in the semi-final against Portugal which earned him the Player of the Tournament Award from UEFA.
The two teams (1998 and 2000) were built on strong defensive unit and always had the special ability of Zinedine Zidane to call on with the youthfulness of Henry, Anelka and Trezeguet coming in handy when needed.
FRANCE 2016 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Roll on to 2016, France are again the hosts of a major tournament and their ever demanding fans wants them to win the title on home soil but like previous Les Bleus sides, are they equipped enough to fight until the end for the top prize?
In 1998, it was hard to believe that the manager at the time Aimé Jacquet decided to drop arguably one of France greatest players Eric Cantona despite an overwhelming call for his inclusion by the French public.
The same could be said of the current team as manager Didier Deschamps dropped Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema who is arguably the best striker in modern times for the Euro 2016 hosts. As if that wasn’t enough, Ben Arfa was also dropped to the shock of majority of French supporters as he emerged the best midfielder in the Ligue 1 last season.
CURRENT TEAM’S STRENGTH
France seems to have a rich vein of emerging young talents like Anthony Martial, Kingsley Coman, Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and N’Golo Kante.
However, their biggest strength is in the depth of the squad and the manager’s ability to tap from the resources he has on the bench like we’ve seen so far with their opening two matches.
Against Romania in the opening game they left it late before emerging as 2-1 winners courtesy a late Dimitri Payet’s left foot power drive from 25yards in the 89th minute but the remarkable thing about the game was the way the substitutes (Coman and Martial) affected the outcome.
In the 2-0 win against Albania, the host again left it late before securing the win but it was the introduction of Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann that sparkled the late rally as the former Sociedad forward opened scoring before Payet sealed the win.
On the positive side, Payet is playing the Zidane role for the current French team by coming up with the x-factor in terms of need and that may just push the Les Bleus to another European title win.
WEAKNESS OF THE CURRENT TEAM
Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny haven’t played together very much for the French side but the absence of Raphaël Varane who missed on the tournament out due to injury has forced manager Deschamps to play them in the heart of his defense.
The manager recognizes this and has deployed Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante to play in front of the two but the few times they’ve been breached the center back pair doesn’t look the most composed.
In both games they’ve played so far they’ve allowed the opponents great scoring opportunities – against Romania, it came in the opening minutes of the first and second halves each while against Albanian, the minnows hit the post.
However, the weakest link in the French team looks to be Patrice Evra. The Juventus left back has been decent in the games he has played so far as he joins the attack everytime he has the opportunity but his recovery looks a bit suspect.
And he doesn’t win enough of the 50/50 tackles which was highlighted in the first game when he gave away a penalty to Romania for a clumsy tackle on Nicolae Stanciu and Bogdan Stancu stepped up to make it 1-1 before Payet rescued a deserved win.
France current squad may not be as strong as the 1998 and 2000 squads but they can go all the way with the right tactics in every game and hopefully Paul Pogba can come into his own to lift the Les Bleus to the title on home soil.