After consecutive disappointments at Euro 2008 and the FIFA World Cup in 2010, where the French failed to get past the group stages, few would have predicted their resurgence as a force to be reckoned with. After controversies that surrounded the national team at the World Cup, Laurent Blanc has managed to get the squad back together and in full flight for the 2012 edition of the UEFA European Championship.
The qualifying campaign was fairly successful for France, winning six games and picking up 21 points out of a potential 30, and topping the group, leaving runners-up Bosnia and Herzegovina just a point behind. With world-class players in their depository, Les Blues are expected to put the ghosts of the group stages to bed this time around.
Lyon’s Hugo Lloris makes for a fine shot-stopper in goal, with Marseilles’ Steve Mandanda providing cover for the French No.1. The partnership of Milan’s Philippe Mexes and Valencia’s Adil Rami in defence will have to be at the top of their game at the summer’s championships if they are to avoid striking disaster for the third time in succession. While the robust Yann M’Vila will surely be missed for the first couple of games, Alou Diarra makes for a worthy replacement to protect the back four. Yohan Cabaye and Samir Nasri will be expecting to pull the strings from midfield, and with the latter’s artistic brilliance, Blanc will be looking for some flair in the middle of the park.
Fresh from his exploits in Bavaria, Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery will be looking to make amends for a disastrous domestic season with the German giants. His pace, trickery and stinging shots will surely give the opposition a hard time, regardless of which flank he is marauding down. Karim Benzema will play alone upfront, and is more than capable of scoring – whether it’s a sensational effort from range, or a poacher’s goal parried away by the keeper.
All in all, a collective team effort could see the dark horses go the distance, and if they don’t, it won’t be the first time that they have successfully disappointed the millions back home.