Les Bleus have been drawn in the ‘Group of Promise ‘ with England, the co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden.France is the only reigning World Cup winner (1998) to win a European Championship (2000). France will become the country hosting the European Championship the most times: 3 out of 13 tournaments when they host Euro 2016 .
France’s performances moved from edgy against Iceland to largely dominant against Serbia and Estonia and solid against England coinciding with a slight change in tactics and personnel. Here’s a quick profile of the team:
FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking: 14
The shameful World Cup 2010 campaign led to thorough reconstruction in the whole French Football Federation. One of the “golden generation” heroes, Laurent Blanc, was appointed as national team head coach, after spending a couple of great seasons in charge of Bordeaux.
Blanc decided to build his team without any major influence from the World Cup 2010 squad members. When his team lost to Belarus in the first qualification game, critics started to predict yet another failure for French football but Blanc managed to qualify for Euro 2012.
With such a strong team selection, Les Bleus will surely show some solid performance in today’s game against Shevchenko’s Ukraine.
However, France is in a football crisis with both football clubs and the national team losing their rank in Europe. This crisis, which unfortunately may last long, hasn’t just started. The French football system didn’t produce enough talents to successfully support the generation change in their national team.
Blanc is regularly criticized on several topics: two of them are his alleged position on the “white Frenchmen” underrepresentation debate, and the team performance, considered as inappropriate to their status in the European football map. Despite the uprising contentious discussions about the ethnical diversity in France national football team, the vast majority of Blanc’s selection are still of other ethnical background.
England and France played out a 1-1 draw in the Group opener.The two teams also played their opening Euro 2004 Group B match against each other, putting together a thrilling performance with an exciting drama in the end. Despite a missed penalty by David Beckham, the Englishmen were in front thanks to Frank Lampard’s goal, when a sudden Zinedine Zidane brace deep inside the injury time rewarded the defending European Champions fully deserved 3 points.
In the cycle of 29 matches since 1998 World Cup quarterfinals to Euro 2000 final (both against Italy) the French national team failed to score twice: both matches with Ukraine. So strong was the former Soviet Republic side by then, led by the young talent Andriy Shevchenko.
Sweden haven’t beaten France for 43 years. However they managed to make the French leave the European Championship in 1992, where Michel Platini’s side failed to win a single match, including the tournament opener against hosts Sweden. The match ended 1:1.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
France seems to be a much disciplined team. 4 goals conceded in 10 matches is the second best result in the qualification. Blanc was able to find some interesting players to find their place next to top class players like Evra, Ribery, Malouda and Benzema. New names as Olivier Giroud, the Ligue 1 topscorer and Yohan Cabaye, one of the most hard-working players in the English Premier League, are going to try their luck at their first major competition, after having spent successful seasons with their clubs.
|2||Bosnia & Herzegovina||10||6||2||2||9||20|
3 – Karim Benzema, Yoann Gourcuff, Florent Malouda
2 – Loic Remy
1 – Yann M’Vila, Philippe Mexes, Samir Nasri, Anthony Reveillere
PAST RECORDS IN THE EUROS
||Did not qualify|
||Did not qualify||1992
||Did not qualify
||Did not qualify||2000
||Did not qualify||2004
||Did not qualify||2008
||Qualified as group winners
GENTLEMAN | Laurent Blanc
Appointed in the wake of Raymond Domenech’s catastrophic reign, Blanc was charged with picking up the pieces of a France side in disarray following a dreadful World Cup 2010 campaign that had left the squad fractured.His coaching CV to that point might have been short, consisting of no more than two years with Girondins de Bordeaux, but it was also remarkably impressive as ‘Le President’ had led the Stade Chaban-Delmas club to the Ligue 1 title in his debut season and followed that up with a charge to the Champions League quarter-finals.Blanc is no stranger to the international game, either, having played fo France as a classy centre-back during their 1998 World Cup triumph, albeit missing the final due to a controversial suspension.
The France coach dropped the midfielder Yoann Gourcuff and the defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa when he named his 23-man squad for Euro 2012.The Lyon playmaker Gourcuff had a mediocre domestic season and failed to convince in a 3-2 friendly win against Iceland.
Les Bleus, who are unbeaten in their last 19 games, will start their campaign against England in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 11 June.
France’s Euro 2012 squad
Goalkeepers: Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Gaël Clichy (Manchester City), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (Milan), Adil Rami (Valencia), Anthony Réveillère (Lyon).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St-Germain), Yann M’vila (Rennes), Samir Nasri (Manchester City).
Forwards: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Jérémy Ménez (Paris St-Germain), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).
THE CAPTAIN| Hugo Lloris
UEFA European Under-19 Championship: winner 2005
Coupe de France :winner 2012
Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year: 2009, 2010, 2012
Ligue 1 Team of the Year: 2009, 2010, 2012
Lloris is a three-time winner of the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year award.France coach Blanc showed his immense faith in goalkeeper Hugo Lloris by announcing he would be the captain of the national team for Euro 2012 back in February.
Though veterans such as Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda have more international experience, having played in the 2006 World Cup final, Lloris is the figurehead of a new era of the French game, which is why he has been chosen as the skipper ahead of experience.
He came up through the ranks at home-town club OGC Nice and kept goal in their run to the 2006 League Cup final.He made his Ligue 1 debut in March that year and replaced Damien Gregorini as the team’s No1 the following season, starting 37 out of 38 league games.
He won the 2005 UEFA European Under-19 Championship with France, playing in every match during the qualifying phase and the final tournament in Northern Ireland.After helping Nice to eighth place in a joint-best Ligue 1 defence in 2007/08, Lyon swooped in an €8.5m move to replace the long-serving Grégory Coupet.
He was voted goalkeeper of the year in Ligue 1 after an excellent debut campaign for Lyon, despite the club’s failure to add to their seven consecutive titles; kept clean sheets on his first two appearances for France, against Uruguay and Turkey.
He conceded only three goals in six UEFA Champions League group games in 2009/10, helping Lyon reach the semi-finals, and replaced Steve Mandanda as Les Bleus’ first choice in the latter part of the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.
He played in both domestic cup finals in the 2011/12 season, losing the League Cup showpiece to Olympique de Marseille but keeping a clean sheet as Lyon defeated US Quevilly in the Coupe de France decider.
THE STAR| Franck Ribéry
Turkish Cup: winner 2005
UEFA Intertoto Cup: winner 2005
Bundesliga: winner 2008, 2010
DFB-Pokal: winner 2008, 2010
DFB-Ligapokal: winner 2007
UNFP Young Player of the Year: winner 2006
Ligue 1 Goal of the Year: 2006
French Player of the Year: winner 2007, 2008
ESM Team of the Year:2008
German Footballer of the Year: 2008
UEFA Team of the Year: 2008
Picking out an individual star from the ranks of talented French players is no easy task, particularly as so many of these men have flattered to deceive on the international stage in recent times.
Ribery, in particular, is a player to have come under scrutiny domestically as he is perceived to be too individualistic and egotistical. Blanc has, however, stressed the importance of the Bayern Munich winger as a player who can turn a game in an instant.
Franck Ribery (29) scored a goal each in friendlies against Estonia,Serbia and Iceland – his first international goals in three years.The scar-faced Bayern star is the wide threat for Les Bleus, and tends to play on the right for them despite featuring on the other wing for his club.He is a real danger for any opponent.
A relatively late developer, the much-travelled Franck Ribéry has risen to prominence as one of Europe’s most crowd-pleasing footballers. A clever dribbler and playmaker, he sets up as many goals as he scores. He was prominent for France at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and EURO 2008.
A disjointed start to his club career concluded with half a season at Galatasaray AŞ, for whom he failed to register in the league but opened the scoring in the 2005 Turkish Cup final – a 5-1 win against Istanbul rivals Fenerbahçe SK.He made his major breakthrough at Olympique de Marseille but lost successive Coupe de France finals, in 2005 and 2006.
Uncapped until a fortnight before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, he made his first international start in France’s opener against Switzerland, then scored his maiden goal in the last-16 encounter with Spain and retained his place through to the final.He joined Bayern in 2007 for a club-record fee of €25m and inspired the Bavarians to a domestic double of Bundesliga and German Cup, winning the German footballer of the year crown as a result.
He badly injured his left ankle against Italy at EURO 2008 and was out of action again in autumn 2009 with tendonitis, but made his comeback in January and played a key role in Bayern’s Bundesliga and German Cup successes, scoring in the final of the latter competition against SV Werder Bremen.
He was suspended for the 2010 UEFA Champions League final – which Bayern lost to Inter Milan – having been sent off in the semi-final first leg against Olympique Lyonnais, he endured more disappointment two years later on home soil when Jupp Heynckes’ team lost to Chelsea on penalties.
He featured for France in a disappointing World Cup campaign in South Africa and passed a half-century of caps during qualifying for EURO 2012.
Injury and loss of form have prevented the former Olympique de Marseille man from reaching his peak yet under Blanc, but if he can produce the kind of play for France that he does on an almost weekly basis for Bayern, les Bleus’ level will undoubtedly benefit.
LE PETIT PRINCE| Samir Nasri
UEFA European Under-17 Championship: winner 2004
UEFA Intertoto Cup :winner 2005
English Premier League : 2012
UNFP Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year : 2007
UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year : 2007
French Player of the Year : 2010
PFA Team of the Year: 2011
Samir Nasri’s countless assists have also helped the French national teams of any age. The French Player of the Year 2010 has already played 32 times fo Les Bleus, representing his country in various age categories. He had a dream to participate in his first World Cup two years ago, but Domenech decided to leave him at home. Now it is clear for the player and for the football world that this decision only helped Nasri to become one of the main profiles of the France national team at the Euro 2012 threshold.
The Manchester City midfielder scored the equaliser in the Euro 2012 Group D opener in Donetsk, an accurate strike from the edge of the box inside the near post, then ran towards the French press area with his finger over his lips and aimed some aggressive gestures at the watching journalists.Nasri explained after the game that the outburst was in response to criticism of his form by the football press in France, claiming it had upset him and his family.
Versatile, light on his feet and technically gifted, he was a key contributor to Manchester City FC ending their 44-year wait for the English top-flight title in 2012.Like Zidane, Nasri was born in Marseille of Algerian ancestry.He joined his home-town club in 2000 and made his Ligue 1 debut on 12 September 2004 in a 2-0 defeat at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard.
The lad won the Ligue 1 young player of the year award in 2006/07 and, after playing for various France youth teams and scoring the winner against Spain to clinch the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 2004.He received his first senior call-up while still in his teens and scored his first senior international goal on his third appearance – a crucial winner in a EURO 2008 qualifier against Georgia – but played just 28 minutes at the finals in Austria and Switzerland.
After four seasons with Marseille, Nasri moved to Arsenal FC in 2008 and scored on his Premier League debut versus West Bromwich Albion FC.He was overlooked by coach Raymond Domenech for the 2010 FIFA World Cup but was restored by Laurent Blanc for the start of EURO 2012 qualifying.
At club level he contributed a career-best ten league goals in the 2010/11 season.He became the fourth player to leave Arsenal for Manchester City since 2009 − the others being Gaël Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré − when he signed for the Citizens in August 2011 for a fee reportedly in the region of €27m.
This Euro is the best chance for him to prove that he is a star of Platini and Zidane caliber.
THE NEW MAKELELE | Yann M’Vila
Coupe Gambardella: winner 2008
UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year : 2011
Laurent Blanc faces a tough decision regarding whether to start Yann M’Vila against Ukraine or not.Against Ukraine, he will keep the same goalkeeper, defence and front three that drew 1-1 with England. The solitary change, if there is one, will occur in midfield.Yann M’Vila’s return to fitness has presented Blanc with a dilemma: does he stick with Yohan Cabaye, Florent Malouda and M’Vila’s direct replacement Alou Diarra, who excelled in the anchor role on Tuesday, or does he bring back one of the key figures from France’s qualifying campaign?
M’Vila made his senior international debut on 11 August 2010 in friendly against Norway in Oslo and retained his place for the team’s opening three EURO 2012 qualifiers.He scored his first goal for Les Bleus during a 2-1 win in Albania on 2 September 2011.He started 37 of Rennes’s 2010/11 Ligue 1 games as the Brittany club challenged for the title before eventually dropping to sixth place.The midfielder selected in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year but just missed out to Mamadou Sakho for the Young Player of the Year prize.
M’Vila’s versatility means he could even play with Diarra. Indeed, France’s best performance under Blanc came in Sarajevo when M’Vila, Diarra and Abou Diaby controlled the midfield against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Malouda’s place is therefore also under threat. At France’s training session, M’Vila looked like a man on a mission, striding purposefully on to the Kirsha pitch and performing the drills with intensity and focus under Blanc’s watchful gaze. But has he done enough to convince the coach?
This is a completely new team. I see Les Bleus reach the quarterfinals this summer.