France failed to produce promising results and are exiting the Euros tournament. We take a look at the team and what happened. Read more.
The French were the favourites to win the Euros after winning the World Cup in 2018. After prevailing 5-4 in a penalty shootout, Switzerland will now face Spain in the quarter-finals in St Petersburg on Friday. Many will be hoping the great sports drama continues. In Bucharest on Monday evening, Kylian Mbappe’s decisive misfire ended French chances of a Euro win.
After losing on penalties to Switzerland, France was eliminated from Euro 2020.
Switzerland established a 1-0 lead in the first half, but Karim Benzema’s two goals in rapid succession put France back in front. With another goal from Paul Pogba in the 75th minute, the French appeared to be on their way to victory. Still, an incredible comeback from Switzerland saw Haris Seferovic and Mario Gavranovic score with minutes to play, forcing the game into extra time. With no goals after 30 minutes, the game was decided on penalties, and it was back to summer training for the French players.
It was a strange Jekyll and Hyde display from France, whose loss kicked off the competition. It’s the first time Switzerland has advanced to the quarter-finals of a major event since 1954, and they’ve never beaten France in a tournament before. They had been awful in the first half before rescuing the tie with an 18-minute burst of attacking brilliance. On the other hand, a change in formation rattled the defence, which eventually succumbed under the aerial assault of Benfica’s target-man, Seferovic.
Didier Deschamps was left without a natural left-back after Lucas Hernandez and Lucas Digne both went off injured in France’s final group game against Portugal. Rather than asking one of his players to play out of position, he revamped the entire system, starting with a three-man defence and bringing in Barcelona centre-back Clement Lenglet alongside Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe. It meant that midfielder Adrien Rabiot and winger Benjamin Pavard had to play as wing-backs.
The first-half performance was shambolic except from a dazzling first five minutes in which Mbappe and Varane might have scored. It’s unclear if France was complacent and operating under a false feeling of security or whether their players were just unable to respond to the tactical shift. Still, Switzerland quickly took command of the game. Stephen Zuber was continually sliding into pockets of space, while Xhaka was terrific in his anchoring role.
Without an additional midfield body alongside them, France’s core duo of Pogba and N’Golo Kante appeared lost. The entire team displayed an alarming lack of energy and passion. Former captain Patrick Vieira was not the only one who wondered aloud at halftime whether the France team had some imposters. At the very least, Deschamps was decisive. Lenglet was the first to leave. With the arrival of Kingsley Coman, the ill-fated experiment with a three-man defence and wing-backs was called off.
Although the French played much better, they lacked the courage and leadership qualities that Switzerland had in abundance, and so their fate was sealed as the final spot-kick of the penalty shootout was missed. You couldn’t put the sole responsibility on the young Mbappe’s shoulders. Still, it was evident throughout the tournament that this wasn’t his year to shine.
France follows fellow big hitters Portugal and the Netherlands out of the tournament, and Spain almost followed the same fate at the hands of Croatia. What next for the unpragmatic French? They certainly won’t panic. They still have plenty of young players who will learn from this experience and undoubtedly come back stronger.
The tournament started with so much promise for them as they deservedly beat another of the European powerhouses, Germany. However, they came back down to earth with a bump after drawing with unfancied Hungary. It was Portugal up next and another unconvincing performance as they scraped their way to an undeserved 2-2 draw. Therefore, perhaps the writing was on the cards and we shouldn’t be too surprised at the exit of such an inconsistent side.
But let’s not forget, judging a national team only based on the clubs its players represent can be simple, and it does serve as a guide in this case. Three players each from Bayern Munich, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur, two each from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, and Paris Saint-Germain, and one each from Atletico Madrid and Juventus make up Deschamps’ current squad. Four of the top seven most valuable players in history are French. No one else comes close to having the same pedigree.
The French captain, Hugo Lloris said, “It’s difficult, especially in a penalty shootout, where it’s a lottery. The only regret we may have is that we were up 3-1. We’ve learned how to close up shop in recent years. We can’t criticise ourselves for not being generous because we persevered to the finish. We’re not searching for justifications. We can’t discuss a lost match, but being ousted in the Round of 16 as the French national team, world champions is not a nice result.”