France’s demise at Euro 2020 was confirmed after they were stunned in the Round of 16 by Switzerland. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Tipped as many people’s favourites in the run-up to the tournament, the weight of expectation ultimately crushed France as they were bundled out of the competition by virtue of a penalty shootout.
It was only three years ago that France were crowned world champions, but now they will have to dust themselves down and pick themselves up again. But where did it go wrong for them at Euro 2020, and what can they take away from this experience?
Kylian Mbappé fluffs lines on major stage
For a player that electrified the 2018 World Cup, Kylian Mbappé has had lofty ambitions to be the world’s best. The jet-heeled striker was widely backed in the Euro 2020 odds to take home the Golden Boot. But after a club campaign in which he fired 41 goals in all competition last term, things didn’t transpire the way Mbappé would have hoped for at Euro 2020.
Indeed, it was something of a nightmare for him as he managed 14 attempts on goal without finding the target, and it was a tournament to forget. He was the fall guy in the penalty shoot-out against the Swiss, as his effort was kept out by Yann Sommer, who flung himself to the right.
Perhaps for a player of Mbappé’s undoubted class, this is a small bump in the road, but with the eyes of Europe’s football fraternity watching him, his inability to deliver when it mattered most was most alarming.
Didier Deschamps’ tactical blemish
Didier Deschamps is one of the most tactically astute managers in international football, but at Euro 2020, he got it horribly wrong. Against Switzerland, his deployment of a 3-5-2 formation caused confusion, although his hand was forced by injuries to two of his left-backs.
Clement Lenglet had to fill in against Switzerland, but after playing his first game in just over a month, he looked very shaky, and he didn’t re-emerge for the second half. Deschamps abandoned his system midway through the first half, and he switched to a back four, but there was no cohesion or balance in his side.
The wing-backs failed to create the width that Deschamps demanded, and the defensive instability was clearly emphasized when Haris Seferovic headed home twice under little pressure. Deschamps took full accountability for his mistakes, but he fudged things up in a big game and he will be kicking himself for it.
Karim Benzema renaissance
While France will represent something of a wounded animal, there was one positive to take from Euro 2020, and that was the renaissance of Karim Benzema. Although he failed to net in his first two group games, Benzema exploded into life against Portugal, and Switzerland.
The Real Madrid striker was sharp, and his big-game temperament was evident. Although he was on the losing side against Switzerland, his first goal was superb as he took in Mbappé’s pass with a back-heel flick before clipping the ball past Sommer.
Although he had a six-year absence from the national team, Benzema still has a lot to offer, and he will be looking to spearhead the ‘Golden Triangle’ consisting of Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe next year at the World Cup.