Can France win a third European Championship? Ciaran Bonass takes a look at the odds of a French win at Euro 2012.
Laurent Blanc translates into English quite loosely as Larry White and while France’s manager is highly unlikely to save your life or get you back with your ex-wife as his namesake Barry was apparently capable of doing, the former Manchester United and Inter Milan defender has regained stability and a level of credibility to a national side who were in total disarray after their disastrous showing at the 2010 World Cup.
It’s worth pointing out that any manager worth his ring of onions is onto a winner when being compared to one who refuses to select players based on their star sign – as Raymond Domenech decided was sound judgement in the case of Robert Pires under the previous French chief’s doomed stewardship of Les Bleus – but the man nicknamed Le President during his playing career has unquestionably given fine leadership to a group of players who were the laughing stock of the football world after their risible revolt in South Africa two years ago.
France topped a tricky group without ever really sparkling, as is proved by the fact that only Greece scored fewer goals en route to topping their qualifying group, which somewhat explains the meaty-looking 14/1 offered on them lifting the trophy in Kiev. It was, nonetheless, an impressive showing given the high pressure situation they found themselves in following a home defeat to Belarus in the opening qualifier when the latest French revolution still appeared to be a huge factor for the players, and the twice European champions went unbeaten for the remainder of the campaign.
There is less expected of this French team than at any point in the last 15 years but that could serve a relatively young team and inexperienced coach well, as they are not lacking for talent in any department. Blanc and his charges will rightfully fancy their chances in a group which pits them against an uninspiring Ukraine who will need the home crowd to give them every advantage they can get, a workmanlike, but predictable and very beatable Swedish side and an English outfit who have made France’s preparations for the last World Cup seem positively tranquil by comparison.
The French squad will only be bettered by Spain and arguably Germany in terms of quality and ability but any team with Hugo Lloris, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema in their ranks are always more likely to be feared than fearful when they take to the field. If Benzema, in particular, can bring his drastically improved form for Real Madrid this season into the tournament and quickly strike up a fruitful partnership with Montpellier sensation Olivier Giroud – who scored on his debut for Les Bleus in their impressive 2-1 friendly win over the highly-fancied Germans in February – then France should go from strength to strength.
The French players, management and public will be desperate to put right what went wrong in South Africa and show themselves in a more positive light to the eyes of the watching world this summer, bearing that, and a favorable group draw in mind, Les Bleus a great shout as dark horses to have their best tournament since Zinedine Zidane majestically guided them all the way to glory at Euro 2000.