Host France in pole position to win Euro 2016


France’s Paul Pogba needs to be a difference maker if the hosts want to win Euro 2016. (Peter Dejong/AP)

The last time France organized a major tournament was the 1998 World Cup, which it won. Eighteen years later, the hosts have a very good chance of claiming another honour on home soil at Euro 2016. Armed with one of their best squads in a decade, the French will be hoping to capitalize on a burgeoning generation of players.

Goalkeepers: Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Lucas Digne (Roma), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Adil Rami (Sevilla).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Leicester), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle).
Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham).

A World Cup and European champion in 1998 and 2000, respectively, Didier Deschamps can be the first Frenchman to win a Euro as a player and a coach. Deschamps guided France to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, but anything short of an appearance in the final this year might spell the end of his tenure in charge of the national team.

4-3-3 – (GK) Lloris – (D) Evra, Koscielny, Mangala, Sagna – (M) Sissoko, Matuidi, Pogba – (F) Griezmann, Giroud, Martial

MORE ON EURO 2016: Sportsnet has you covered with in-depth coverage of Euro 2016 in France, which runs from June 10 to July 10.

Match schedule || Group standings || Live scoreboard || Roster lists
Profiles: All 24 teams || History of Euro || Top 10 moments in Euro history

June 10: vs. Romania in Paris
June 15: vs. Albania in Marseille
June 19: vs. Switzerland in Lille

France automatically qualified as hosts.

There are almost too many strengths to name within the French squad. They have quality and depth at almost every position, especially out wide and in the centre of midfield. Deschamps will have no shortage of options at this tournament.

Injuries to Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu have thinned out the crop of centre backs. Now Laurent Koscielny and Eliaquim Mangala are slated to start, which might be a decent pairing. Koscielny lacks pace but is strong in the air, while Mangala is the exact opposite. Nonetheless, it’s still an area of concern due to the lack of chemistry.

Eliaquim Mangala: Mangala experienced an up-and-down campaign in his second year with Manchester City. Seeing as how Koscielny can cover for the City defender’s weaknesses in the air, the former Porto man should perform well in the absence of Varane.

Paul Pogba: The Juventus midfielder is destined to become the world’s next great midfielder. However, Pogba can sometimes fall victim to his own potential by trying to prove his talent. If France wants to win Euro 2016, the 23-year-old has to be a game-changer and cannot over-exert himself.

Antoine Griezmann: Griezmann will likely start on the wing for France. Nonetheless, his speed, strength and eye for goal will make him a multi-purposed threat. The 25-year-old scored 32 goals in 54 games for Atletico Madrid this past season and is growing in confidence with every appearance. Euro 2016 could put him over the top.

Can France overcome their major absences? France is dealing with injuries, but their star striker Karim Benzema was left off the squad due to a blackmail case. With so many makeshift changes, Deschamps will have a few selection headaches throughout the tournament.

France is one of the favourites to win the tournament along with Germany and Spain. However, since Les Bleus are the hosts, they will be expected to at least qualify for the final, if not, win it.


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