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- Euro 2012
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cedric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Defenders: Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Adil Rami (Valencia), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Philippe Mexes (Milan), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Gael Clichy (Manchester City), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Samir Nasri (Manchester City), Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Jeremy Menez (PSG), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Yann M’Vila (Rennes), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle)
Forwards: Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier)
Two-time European champions, the French were in somewhat of a crisis between 2008 and 2010. Their qualification wasn’t all that easy as well, as they finished just one point clear of second placed Bosnia. Still, they’re starting to look more and more like themselves, and you’d expect them to do well. Not as well as 1984 and 2000 when they actually won the trophy, but they can at least reach the semi-finals, as they did in 1996. This will be their seventh appearance in the competition, but they already have booked their slot for 2016, when the tournament will be held in France.
Laurent Blanc was until not long ago a player, one of the greatest defenders in French football history. As manager, he was in charge of Bordeaux from 2007 till 2010, when he was appointed as head coach of his country. His average win % throughout his career as manager in 60%, quite an impressive achievement for such a young manager. In his 22 games in charge of France he has lost just two.
Likely formation: 4-5-1 or 4-3-3
The formation Blanc is most likely going to choose is the same as the one Germany use. In the two friendlies the French played so far (against Serbia and Iceland), the manager started with 4 defenders, 3 players in midfield, two wingers and a lonely striker up front. Judging by the fact that he called-up just two natural strikers to his squad, I think this will be the most likely formation we’d be seeing from France.
Players to watch out for:
The midfield seems to be France’s strength, as most of their key players play in such positions. And while it looks like Franck Ribery should be regarded as their star-man, I would signal out three other players whom I expect to shine in this tournament: Samir Nasri, Yohan Cabaye, and Hatem Ben Arfa. All three of them had great seasons in England, with Nasri winning the league with Manchester City, while Cabaye and Ben Arfa performed admirably with Newcastle and helped the team secure a European spot for next season.
Players who will miss the tournament:
Younes Kaboul from Tottenham and Loic Remy from Marseille will miss out due to injuries. Some of the players who are fit, but still didn’t receive a call-up are Yoann Gourcuff from Lyon and PSG attacking duo Kevin Gameiro and Giullaume Hoarau. The Lyon playmaker was actually in the preliminary squad and took part in the friendly against Iceland a week ago, but Laurent Blanc later decided that he doesn’t need him in his final EURO 2012 squad.
It is hard to make a prediction for their performance in the tournament, as they have often surprised us by either performing below expectations or actually going out there and smashing their opponents. It’s a tough group to be drawn into, having to face teams such as England and Sweden so early in the competition. What is more, if they make it to the knockout stage (which they probably will), they’ll have to face either Spain or Italy in the quarter-finals, both teams being very difficult opposition. So, in all fairness, I really can’t see them going further than the Last 8. But they might surprise us yet again…