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Euro 2012 Team Preview: France
France is the only team in Group D to have ever won a European Championship. They have two titles in their bags, the latest one coming in 2000 when the likes of Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira, David Trezeguet, and Laurent Blanc were winning games together. There’s just one of them left in the team now, and not as a player – manager Laurent Blanc will be keen on revisiting the finals and winning another trophy as France boss.
But with the events that ensued in the 2010 World Cup – and a dismal 2008 Euro showing that they blew up as early as the group stages – Blanc has to prove first that his team is capable of winning it all. There have been a lot of changes, and a number of adjustments. And for a glorious side like France needing to bounce back with a vengeance, it’s about time they play together like their predecessors. A finals finish could be too much to ask, but it’s not a long shot given their roster.
Samir Nasri hasn’t been very well since moving to Manchester City, and Franck Ribery has done it all but claim a trophy last season. France’s attacking mindset will warrant that these two pick up their games, and thankfully, they have Karim Benzema to lead the line and ease the pressure for them. Benzema’s participation in the La Liga last term ended in a title-winning run for the Los Merengues – he scored 21 goals and served 7 assists in the league. In all competitions, the 24-year-old Frenchman tallied an impressive 32 goals and 12 assists. A more mature Benzema is also known to create situations for his teammates so Nasri and Ribery will surely find it easy to build a seamless relationship with him.
France lost their opening game in the qualifying perhaps as a continuation to their horrendous 2010 World Cup appearance. Since then they never lost a game, drawing three and winning six en-route to this summer’s affair. This definitely provided the team stability, confidence, and more importantly, time for recovery not only as a team, but as a footballing nation.
Laurent Blanc won the 2000 Euro tournament as a defender in a 4-2-3-1. Now that’s he’s in charge, it looks like it’s going to be the 4-2-3-1 with a touch of an attacking philosophy yet again. Loic Remy, Samir Nasri, and Franck Ribery are to play behind the lone striker Karim Benzema. On paper, it’s an attacking unit that reads so deadly already. Les Bleus are very good with the ball on their feet so look to them to dominate possession through short passes, fluid movement, and a whole lot of individual skills.
Winning Group D is not long shot for the French – if not for their recent international form, they would have been top contenders to win the group. England is the only team that can realistically bother France to the bones, while Ukraine and Sweden will offer challenges that they should be able to handle perfectly.
France is at 8/15 to qualify for the knockout stages; an undeniable likelihood most punters will look to exploit. They will be facing the runner-up of Group C in the quarters where they should do well; Les Bleus is at 2/1 to reach the semis. But the semi-finals is a different story as they will most likely face the winner of Group B a.k.a. the ‘group of death’ there. Given this, France is at 5/1 to reach the finals, and also at 5/1 to be eliminated in the semi-finals.
All odds are from Bet365.com (£200 FREE BET!).