Evaluating the favourites to win the Euros to predict to consider whether they have a chance of going all the way.
The friendlies have finished; the wait is almost over: the Euros are just around the corner. European football fans are now envisioning the possibility that they will lift the cup in a month confirmed their nation as the best side in Europe. Greece winning Euro 2004 highlighted that any side can win the competition.
The 16th Euros is set to be an unusual one. The world is wrapped in the Covid crisis, limiting travel and attendances to games during a Europe-wide tournament which means that games are played across several nations before concluding at Wembley. The difficulties with Covid should not be disregarded. Football fans, who have been impacted the most due to covid, can have an impact. Two of the biggest examples include Wales’ impressive run in 2016 Euros and the impact of the Icelandic clap. Yet, despite these limitations, the tournament will still begin with expectations on each side in the competition. The Riverside Observer has analysed the 24 national sides in the competition to provide our readers with tournament predictions. To prevent our biases from getting in the way, we have excluded the home nations from the lists.
The teams listed here will not surprise any of our readers as they have been widely touted to be the sides expected to win the tournament. These sides have the best squads, a good balance, a manager, and a tactical system, to help them to the final stages of the tournament.
Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)
FIFA Ranking: #2
Manager: Didier Deschamps
One To Watch: Kylian Mbappé
Hot Prospect: Jules Koundé
Les Bleus come into the tournament having already proven themselves at a step above European level: by winning the World Cup in 2018. Didier Deschamps defensive philosophy married with the oozing talent within the French side led them to the final where they came out 4-2 winners over Croatia. This impressive feat alone highlights why France is one of the favourites coming into the Euros and the squad that won the world cup is still at the height of its powers coming into the Euros.
While Hugo Lloris is the preferred first-team goalkeeper he is stepping into the latter stages of his football career at 35-years-old. Didier Deschamp has Steve Mandanda and Mike Maignan to replace Hugo Lloris if needed. Both players are very good between the sticks he will be confident in his alternatives should Deschamps need to use them.
The ageing goalkeeper situation may be a minor concern, they have apt cover ahead of them which means that their exposure will be limited. Deschamps options at centre back include Clement Lenglet, Raphaël Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, all of whom play key roles in the best sides in Europe (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-German). The fullback positions are one of the weaker roles in the side with only Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez joining the side as key players for major European clubs, while Everton’s Lucas Digne and Olympic Lyon’s Léo Dubois have had very impressive seasons this year.
Deschamp isn’t lacking quality in midfield either as he can choose from recent Champions League winner N’Golo Kanté, the most expensive signing in English football history Paul Pogba, with Juventus’ Adrien Rabiot and Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso also available for selection in this area of the pitch.
Finally, France has a plethora of incredible talents to choose from in attacking areas. Deschamps could choose any three of: Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezeman, Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, Marcus Thuram, Ousmane Dembélé, and Kylian Mbappé. To stray away from just naming players Deschamps can choose between four proven strikers, the heir-apparent to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and a trio of pacy, enigmatic wide forwards.
Due to the squad available to Didier Deschamps and their proven track record, it is no surprise that France is the favourites to win the Euros this year. However, they are not infallible, and their biggest weaknesses come from the intangible sides of the game. The problem with these talents is that they often come with baggage and can often present personality clashes. The most recent and public of which was the clash between Oliver Giroud and Karim Benzema. An internal issue became public news that Giroud attempted to find a comical resolution for by proposing for the pair to have an end-of-tournament go-kart race. Benzema is also a controversial figure for his actions in 2015 when he allegedly blackmailed former national teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape. The Real Madrid striker is set to stand trial on such counts in October. While a conflict between manager Didier Deschamps and Adrien Rabiot ended in the manager declaring that the midfielder wouldn’t play for the national side as long as he was in charge. Yet he was reincorporated into the side squad for the Euros. Manchester United have had near-constant issues with Paul Pogba. The most expensive English football signing has frequently clashed with managers and the clubs' hierarchy with a constant struggle to leave the club. If these issues resurface during the Euros and factions begin to unfold then they may start to be factious on the pitch, much to the detriment of their Euro hopes.
France should get to the final of the European Championships and the pressure will be on Didier Deschamps side to push on from there to win the tournament. However, success in the final will depend on the oppositions ability to challenge Les Bleus as football is a game of two sides.
Daily Euros: BBC Football Daily (Podcast)
The England Show (Podcast)
Tifo Football (Youtube and Podcast)