France haven’t reached the semifinals of the European Championship, let alone conquered the continent, since the current millennium was all of six months old.
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In three appearances since lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy in 2000, the French have reached the quarterfinals twice (2004, when they were knocked out by eventual winners Greece; 2012, when they were knocked out by eventual winners Spain) and failed to advance from the group stage once (2008, when they finished 15th of 16 teams).
That’s the (recent) history against Les Bleus. Now, a bit of (long-term) history that’s on their side: three host nations have ever won the EURO: Spain, in 1964; Italy, in 1968; and — yup, you guessed it — France, in 1984 (their 2000 triumph took place in Belgium and the Netherlands, which are France’s neighbors one and two doors to the north).
With that, and an exceptionally talented squad under the leadership of Didier Deschamps, in mind, France are currently the bookmakers’ favorites (at 3:1) ahead of this week’s EURO 2016 kickoff, according to many European betting outlets.
A quick rundown of reasons why (and why not) to believe in the French at EURO 2016:
Absolute home-field advantage — That France are the sole hosts of EURO 2016 insures that every game they play, from the group stage so far as they may advance, will be played on home soil.
Always the possibility for self-destruction — Remember the 2010 World Cup, when then-captain Patrice Evra — alongside the also-volatile Nicolas Anelka — led a player revolt against the coaching staff of then-boss Raymond Domenech? That was fun, and Evra remains a key contributor for France six years later.
Pogba, Griezmann, Payet, Martial, Lloris — We could go on and on here (so, let’s … Kante,
Benzema, Giroud, Schneiderlin, Matuidi, Coman, Cabaye), but we’ve already listed more than half of France’s roster for EURO 2016. Furthermore, so many of the pieces are meant to fit together so beautifully for Deschamps. Example A: Paul Pogba, the most complete midfielder in the world (at the age of 23), will start alongside either N'Golo Kante or Morgan Schneiderlin, with the odd man out providing fresh legs late in games. Example B: just wait until you see the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman flow oh so interchangeably behind a lone striker in Olivier Giroud (so maybe those last two words aren’t exactly a selling point). They’ll be the most exciting team at EURO 2016, so make sure you watch them.
That back four — Raphael Varane (hamstring) will miss EURO 2016, as will Mamadou Sakho (doping suspension, which has since been lifted), which means Laurent Koscielny and Eliaquim Mangala might just start at the center of defense when France face Romania in the tournament opener on Friday (3 p.m. ET).
Someone other than Spain has to win it — They can’t really three-peat, can they? Before they went back-to-back in 2008 and 2012, no one had ever done that.