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France focus on bright future bearing fruit at Euro 2016

| 16.07.2014

Mats Hummels’ header and dogged defending, which squeezed any impetus out of French flair, was all the difference between themselves and Germany when Les Bleus exited the World Cup in the quarter-finals.

Thoughts across the Channel promptly turn to hosting duties for an expanded tournament format at Euro 2016 now. France are 11/2 third-favourites to win it behind the Germans and a wounded Spain. The signs are encouraging for Didier Deschamps, who skippered Les Bleus to global glory on home soil in 1998, because of several emerging talents.

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, one that got away for Manchester United, received the best young player accolade at the World Cup. His development, and those of others, should continue apace with Les Bleus organising serious tests as they prepare for the Euros.

Spain, Serbia and Portugal are France’s next three games, albeit friendlies, but they look anything other than straightforward. Was this where Brazil made their bloomer before the World Cup? It was more like encounters with Honduras, South Africa and Panama for them. Les Bleus do have some less glamorous friendlies to come too, against Armenia and Albania.

Deschamps and his charges must build on their more successful showings at the World Cup. Dwelling on the damp squib nature of their exit in Brazil to Germany will prove destructive. Instead, there are plenty of positives to draw from thrashing neighbours Switzerland and humbling hostile Honduras.

If there is one question mark surrounding France, though, it’s can they find a place for the talents of Samir Nasri? Deschamps decided to omit him from the World Cup roster, despite key contributions made to Manchester City’s Premier League title win. The snub hit both Nasri and Etihad teammate Gael Clichy hard, especially with ageing left back Patrice Evra’s legs in need of replacing.

Exiled egos notwithstanding, in their stead others certainly shone. Marseille’s diminutive playmaker Mathieu Valbuena excelled in a nominally wide berth, while Basque winger Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad) provided direct support for Karim Benzema when included over Olivier Giroud.

There’s a little of everything in midfield to boot. Blaise Matuidi’s energetic box-to-box abilities worked well in tandem with Pogba, while deep-lying guile came from former Newcastle United playmaker Yohan Cabaye. Premier League trio Moussa Sissoko, Morgan Schneiderlin and Remy Cabella rarely saw action in Brazil, but show there is real strength in depth in the engine room.

Central defence looks rock solid, and for a long time to come, with young Raphael Varane picked by Deschamps. Eliaquim Mangala, meanwhile, is set to command a reported transfer fee of £32m if City complete their capture of the muscular Porto player. Kurt Zouma, snapped up by Chelsea in January for the future, can’t even get a look in yet, despite his athleticism and imposing size.

Mathieu Debuchy, ahead of City summer acquisition Bacary Sagna, and skipper Hugo Lloris (Spurs) complete the back five, which has the potential to be as good as any in the world. Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sakho also get regular football in defence at Arsenal and Liverpool respectively.

All this is so encouraging, and remember Franck Ribery missed Brazil through injury. Looking at the longue duree for Les Bleus, then, a tournament win in two or four years’ time is certainly possible. Odds of 10/1 say France will lift the World Cup in Russia in 2018.



Jamie Clark

Athletics aficionado, die-hard snooker fan and Crystal Palace supporter Jamie has written for Coral since February 2014 after spells with Soccerlens and the Press Association as a digital journalist and copywriter. A former East Midlands sports correspondent and Bwin tipster, he is a graduate of both the University of York and University of Sheffield, with a Masters in web journalism from the latter.