Let's first look at today's opening match versus Romania. Not the most difficult opening opponent, nor the easiest. The former iron curtain nation tends to pose a difficult enigma to most nations that face them. They tend to be well disciplined defensively and will ruthlessly punish you for any mistakes. I don't think they will make a run like they did in the 1994 World Cup where they were lead by their talisman - Hagi. Their Euro qualifying campaign was not a walk in the park and not in a group of death! They would end the qualifiers in second behind surprise North Ireland. But none of this matters as all the teams start with a 0-0-0 record.
Les Bleus head into this opening game on a relative high, after defeating Scotland in their last friendly. The 3-0 score line could have easily been 5-0 (Pogba hitting a post on a wonderful free kick and Gignac demonstrating why he plays in Mexico and not in Europe after completely botching a 1v1). France has had a decent run as of late. They have been scoring goals...but also conceding to many at the same time. Without their best defender - Varane - I fear this might be their down fall. But let's focus on the positives first.
- The midfield is the iron of this side. Much like the glory days of old, when France had the Carre Magique of Tigana, Fernandes, Giresse and Platini (I still get emotional thinking of that midfield). Or the one anchored by a certain Zidane, that also had the likes of Deschamps, Vieira, Petit, Karembeu and Pires. This side has what appears to be a midfield that could elevate itself to these lofty highs. With Pogba and Matuidi, you have two of the best box to box midfielders in the world. Pogba can also either play deeper in a Pirlo role or play the true box to box role. The emergence of Kante for Leicester City could prove to be the key for France. While he is playing deeper than he does in the EPL, his engine and tireless work rate will be the key to providing cover for the back four. Deschamps has some options on the bench as well - Cabaye, Sissoko and Scheiderlin - he can rapidly add some muscle to his midfield.
- An infusion of youth...speaking of midfield talent, there is some youth in that area as well with the emergence of Coman at Bayern Munich (I am still pissed that PSG let him leave). Coman could slot in as a winger or a deeper lying offensive midfielder. Not a bad option to
Expect the former PSG player to have a say during the Euros
- In form players - Griezmann, Payet, Pogba, Matuidi to name a few have had solid domestic seasons for their clubs. All will be called upon if France is to go far in this tournament. While I will not place too much emphasis on "in form" players, need I remind everyone that going into the 2002 World Cup France had the leading goal scorers from the English, Italian and French domestic leagues - Henry, Trezeguet and Cisse - and mustered ZERO goals in those games. ZERO. But I rather have players in form than struggling.
- That back line is RUBBISH. Losing Varane made an area of concern a major fear. First, how...how...is Evra still our first choice left back??? His best days are way way way behind him. He was washed up during the last World Cup! Argh. I know Deschamps has tried other options like Tremoulinas, Kurzawa, etc but how is the old man still running up and down the left side?? On the right...isn't much better. Sagna was a beast when he came over to Arsenal from Ligue 1. While he is still solid defensively his crosses are RUBBISH. Sorry that might be too strong. But I never mistake his crosses from a David Beckham special. What is more scary is the central pairings. Kos is solid but I fear he is always good for at least one brain fart every once in a while. Rami has had a good season in Spain. But lets face it, is the emergency back up to the emergency back up! At least with Varane I felt there was one out of the four that could keep his cool. Now I am not so sure. Lloris will have to on top of his game.
Stade de France will be absolute bonkers today. I look for France to feed off this energy. Les Bleus start the tournament with a 3-1 victory.
Goals from Griezmann, Giroud and Martial.