Reigning world champion and 2016 European Championship finalist France will make their highly anticipated debut at the European Championship 2021 tournament on Tuesday. Lineup against Kylian Mbappe and his company are Germany, not too impressed with Les Bleus’ status as favorites in the league.
France’s Euro 2021 opener has the makings of a baptism of fire. The French squad will take on Germany, formidable candidates in every football competition, at their home base in Munich. Favorites France will have to keep their expectations in check or else they will bite off more than they can chew.
Facing Germany to kick off the tournament stands in stark contrast to France’s first matches at the 2018 World Cup, where Les Bleus opened against Australia, and at Euro 2016 against Romania, both sides of more modest football stature.
Confident, Didier Deschamps’ Bleus should accept their position as frontrunner in 2021. With Paris Saint-Germain prodigy Mbappe, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann and Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud up front, the French attack could be stratospheric – at least on paper – . The same goes for the midfield landscape with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante fresh off his Man-of-the-match feat to win the Champions League last month.
“I don’t want to run away from this ‘favorite’ status that we share with other countries,” coach Deschamps told French sports newspaper L’Equipe. “But it doesn’t guarantee us anything. For some people we won without stepping on the field. That is far from the case.”
Europe is eager to trip France
Be it managers, pundits or players, Europe agrees that France is the favorite to win this tournament. That means a target on their backs and the hefty weight of expectation that comes with it.
History teaches us to be wary of the kind of pedestal on which Les Bleus stands. During the 2002 World Cup under coach Roger Lemerre, a glittering French squad arrived in South Korea and looked like it couldn’t hurt – the defending World Champions (1998) and reigning European Champions (2000) finally boasted a squad that included Auxerre’s Djibril Cissé, Arsenal- player Thierry Henry and Juventus player David Trezeguet, the top scorers in the French, English and Italian leagues respectively. But what happened next was a pure, ignominious defeat: elimination after the group stage, without a single goal being scored.
Meanwhile, Germany, led by coach Joachim Löw, draw additional motivation from the exalted status of their opening opponents. Defender Antonio Rüdiger threw up the gauntlet during a press conference on Sunday. “Of course they have good attackers. We have to be ready to win the one-on-one challenges,” said Rüdiger at the German base in Bavaria. “We have to be a little dirty, not always be nice or try to play nice football. Against players like her you have to throw a marker down,” he said.
Is France its own worst enemy?
That said, France could well be its own worst enemy. With his salvo of apparent criticism following France’s 3-0 friendly win over Bulgaria last week, striker Giroud clouded the image Les Bleus has lingered since the 2018 World Cup – that of a merry group of friends on a trophy quest. to take home .
“Sometimes you make a run and the balls just don’t come,” Giroud said. “I don’t always pretend to make the right decisions, but I have done my best to provide solutions in the area,” added the Chelsea forward. without explicitly targeting teammate Mbappé.
The comments were frankly dissected in the football press, mind-boggling that a psychodrama could shake up the team’s usually slick public relations—and all the more so for a flapper that indirectly involves striker Benzema. After his six-year exile from the international game, Benzema’s return to the French team poses a de facto threat to Giroud’s place as a starter.
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Mbappe, for his part, said he was “infected” by Giroud’s public comments, but still wants to turn the page. “We are here to represent France and the national team represents the most important thing,” Mbappe told reporters at the French training center on Sunday. “We have a big competition and these trivial things will not interfere with our preparation. We have a common goal, which he and I are a part of,” he added. “We are 48 hours away from a super important game. I’m actually surprised no one has asked me about the game…”
France will also be fighting history: since the group stage was introduced in 1980, Germany has never lost its opening game in 10 matches. Coincidentally, France doesn’t have that either, in eight of its own appearances. And in the event of a Les Bleus win, all will surely be forgiven.
This article has been translated from the original into French.