France are on the rise once again and seem destined for further success on home soil in Euro 2016 after an eighteen-year wait from their World Cup triumph in 1998.
Didier Deschamps was the victorious captain of Les Bleus when they overcame Brazil in the final at the Stade de France to secure the nation’s first world crown back in the Nineties.
Now, as manager, the 47-year-old will be aiming to lead France to a trophy for the second time in his career this summer with a host of quality players at his disposal to take possession of the adidas-sponsored official Euro 2016 ball and score against their opponents.
Bookmakers are giving Les Bleus odds at 11/4 to win the competition for the third time in their history and they have more than enough talent to achieve the feat (odds on 18/4). But will they actually make it?
Experience at the back
France will enter the tournament with a wealth of experience in their backline, even among the younger players of the defence.
Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra each have over 50 caps, along with numerous seasons playing at the top level of the sport and winning several titles.
The duo are likely to operate in the full-back roles, despite their advancing years, providing Deschamps with stability on the flanks.
Raphael Varane has established himself as one of the best centre-backs in world football due to his exploits for Real Madrid following his move to the club at the age of 18.
The defender, who is now 22, was an essential part of Real’s Champions League success in 2014, and his form has seen him as the leading option in the heart of the Real defence ahead of Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
Varane will be the anchor that France build their defence around for years to come. He will aim to make a statement at the tournament, alongside Mamadou Sakho, that his team will be a tough opponent.
Talented midfield holds the key to success
The signing of Dimitri Payet by West Ham United was not regarded as a huge coup for the Hammers last summer, despite his form for Marseille in the 2014-15 Ligue 1 campaign.
In his debut season in the Premier League, the 29-year-old has been nothing short of sensational, notching 12 goals in all competitions. His displays have warranted calls for him to be named PFA Player of Year ahead of Leicester City duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.
Payet has become famous for his outstanding skill from set-pieces as he has scored several stunning strikes from distance for the Hammers as well as Les Bleus, including his 30-yard effort against Russia during a friendly match which you can see below.
The midfielder has the opportunity to light up the competition due to his style of play, which is extremely pleasing on the eye.
His mazy runs and pinpoint passes in the final third make him a threat to every team and Payet could certainly be the driving force behind a French victory on home soil.
Paul Pogba has gone from strength-to-strength since he left Manchester United to join Juventus in 2012.
Many supporters of the Red Devils will feel slightly aggrieved that former manager Sir Alex Ferguson – the John Lennon of football, according to Jürgen Klopp – failed to secure the 23-year-old to a long-term deal at Old Trafford given their struggles in the middle of park.
He has similar attributes to Patrick Vieira, using his strength and pace to dominate the midfield as he has proven in Serie A with Juventus.
Pogba had a strong debut in a major tournament, winning the Best Young Player award at the 2014 World Cup despite his side’s exit in the quarter-finals.
In front of home crowds at the Euros, Pogba will be desperate to enhance his growing reputation and add further awards to his name along with a major international crown.
Griezmann to lead the line
Antoine Griezmann has been a sensation for Atletico Madrid since his move to the club in 2014, which has more than made up for the departure of Diego Costa.
The forward was a promising player during his time with Real Sociedad, but he has taken his game to the next level by moving to the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Griezmann has notched 29 goals in 45 appearances for Diego Simeone’s men this season to keep his side in contention for La Liga’s title.
Meanwhile, his brace against Barcelona in the Champions League dumped the holders out of the competition, leaving Atletico with a strong chance of advancing to their second final in three years.
The 25-year-old has proven that he has the ability to score goals on a consistent basis in pressurised situations against high-quality opponents.
Those attributes will stand him in excellent stead when he takes the field on home soil in the Euros as Deschamps will be looking at him to deliver in the absence of Karim Benzema due to his suspension from the national side.
Reports suggest the that the 25-year-old will part company from his boot sponsor, Puma, before the tournament and, due to being the host nation’s leading man, companies will be lining up to secure a deal with the Atletico forward. He could be the poster boy of Euro 2016 and marketability like that makes for big money.
Team-mate Pogba has reportedly signed a 10-year £31m deal with Adidas and, given the fact that Griezmann will be face the of France during the competition, he may well choose to alter his boots before the action kicks off.
Deschamps will be praying that any change in footwear will not affect Griezmann’s prowess in front of the net. However, Anthony Martial, Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac will also be vying for selection this summer and that gives France lots of options in attack.
Will the predictions of France taking advantage not only of the location of this year’s tournament but its impressive players and firing its team to the top spot of the Euro be confirmed? We’ll find out soon enough.