France have put in some impressive performances in the lead up to Euro 2012 and many now believe that Laurent Blanc's side will be contenders for the Henry Delaunay trophy
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FIFA Ranking: 16
Best Finish at European Championships: Winners (1984, 2000)
Fixtures at Euro 2012
Monday June 11
Donetsk: France v England (17:00)
Friday June 15
Donetsk: Ukraine v France (17:00)
Tuesday June 19
Kiev: Sweden v France (19:45)
Top Goalscorer in Qualifying: Karim Benzema, Yoann Gourcuff & Florent Malouda (3 Goals)
France are heading to Euro 2012 with the intention of re-establishing themselves among the elite of international football. The French enjoyed a successful period at the turn of the century with a World Cup win followed by glory at Euro 2000, but things have gone downhill in spectacular fashion over the past several years.
However, Laurent Blanc appears to have turned things around and they will be desperate to progress from Group D at Euro 2012, in which they face England, Sweden and Ukraine.
How They Qualified
Two-time European champions France survived a late scare to qualify from Group D. They opened their campaign with a 1-0 defeat at home to Belarus but rebounded with four straight wins, completing the double over Luxembourg after beating both Bosnia and Romania.
The second half of the campaign proved to be an awkward one as they failed to string victories together, drawing with Belarus and Romania while beating Albania twice, and that meant they faced a crucial final-game clash with Bosnia. France fell behind in the game but just as it looked as though they would be facing a two-legged play-off, Samir Nasri kept his nerve to score a penalty that sent them through with a 1-1 draw.
Laurent Blanc was named successor to Raymond Domenech following a shambolic appearance at the 2010 World Cup. France were not at the tournament long, crashing out after the group stage, but they did find time in South Africa to produce a player revolt that saw the squad walk out on training.
There were also reports of dressing room bust-ups, most notably between Domenech and Nicolas Anelka, and that left Blanc with much to do when he took the reins. However, the former Manchester United and Inter Milan star has got France back on track and he will be keen to see them make an impact in Poland and Ukraine, even if they do head home empty-handed.
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has kick-started his career in the past year and this is his chance to shine on one of international football’s biggest stages. Benzema emerged as a hot prospect while with French side Lyon and was linked with a number of Europe’s most famous clubs, but his move to Madrid did not go as planned at first and he found himself out of favour with club boss Jose Mourinho and then national team coach Raymond Domenech.
The forward was overlooked for the 2010 World Cup, but he is now living up to his potential and has forced his way into Madrid’s starting XI on a regular basis. Benzema featured in seven of France’s Euro 2012 qualifiers, netting three times, and is expected to be part of a strong French attacking corp that will also include Samir Nasir, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jeremy Menez, who were part of the ‘golden generation’ that won the 2004 Under 17 European Championship.
Euro 2012 Squad
Goalkeepers: Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux), Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: Gaël Clichy (Manchester City), Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Philippe Mexes (Milan), Adil Rami (Valencia), Anthony Réveillère (Lyon).
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St-Germain), Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Samir Nasri (Manchester City).
Forwards: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Jérémy Ménez (Paris St-Germain), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).
Expected Starting Team
Lloris, Clichy, Mexes, Rami, Debuchy, Diarra, M’Vila, Nasri, Malouda, Ribery, Benzema
Captain: Hugo Lloris
Penalty Taker: Samir Nasri
Top Team Goalscorer Tips
Karim Benzema is one of the favourites to finish as the top goalscorer at Euro 2012 and can be backed at 16/1 with Bet Victor
in that market. It is, therefore, no surprise to see him installed as the favourite to top score for France with only Blue Square
brave enough to offer 3/1 on the Real Madrid striker.
However, Benzema only netted three times in qualifying and France’s style of play may see him with his back to goal more than he’d like, which opens up the market for some of the midfield players. Samir Nasri, the team’s penalty taker, is 14/1 with Blue Square
while Florent Malouda (joint top scorer in qualifying) can be backed at 10/1 with Paddy Power
The man that could usurp them all though is Franck Ribery. The Bayern Munich winger has been in scintillating form in the recent friendly matches, scoring against both Iceland and Serbia, and he appears to be enjoying the freedom of playing behind Benzema. Ribery disappointed in South Africa but he is now a better player and looks ready to take responsibility for France. At 10/1 with Sporting Bet
he looks over-priced to be top scorer for Les Bleus.
France are the best team in Group D but their defence will let them down against the very top sides. A semi final exit looks likely.