France tried three different starting formations in four UEFA EURO 2020 matches as they struggled to find the right formula. Injuries to left-backs Lucas Hernández and Lucas Digne didn’t help, and Les Bleus lost their solidity following a defensive masterclass in their opener against Germany. Then came the heartbreak of their shoot-out defeat by Switzerland.
What were the positives?
Karim Benzema justified his recall after five-and-a-half years in the international wilderness with back-to-back doubles against Portugal and Switzerland. Paul Pogba enjoyed an outstanding tournament in midfield and Les Bleus did well to come through a fiendishly difficult Group F top of the section.
Benzema’s glee at netting his first France goal since October 2015 was quite something, so too was being part of a capacity attendance for the two matches Les Bleus played in Budapest. That said, it’s impossible to look past the crazy round of 16 tie with Switzerland, certainly the most entertaining international match I’ve ever attended.
What the future holds
The round of 16 exit will make France a dangerous wounded animal at the next FIFA World Cup. The squad is young enough to still be intact and my feeling is that Deschamps will want to lead the reigning champions to glory in Qatar, and prove that he can come up with a system that gives France balance and gets the best out of the Benzema-Kylian Mbappé-Antoine Griezmann combination.
Predictions for the rest of EURO 2020
I tipped France to add the EURO title to their world crown, so you might want to discount the following. I’ll go for a Belgium vs England final with Roberto Martínez’s side upsetting the Wembley crowd and this magnificent generation of Belgian players achieving something tangible by lifting the trophy.