What's next for France after shock Euro 2020 exit?05.07.2021 10:02:35
- France fell at the round-of-16 on penalties to Switzerland in Euro 2020.
- The squad have another chance of glory in the World Cup next winter
- With players ageing there could be plenty of change in the next few years
- Hugo Lloris, Olivier Giroud, N’Golo Kante and Karim Benzema are all 30 or older
France were not the only big nation to trip up at the last-16 stage of the Euros, but their exit was probably the biggest shock of the lot. While Portugal and Germany can be excused for losing to Belgium and England respectively, and the Netherlands were making their return to tournament football after a seven-year absence, nobody expected the world champions to fall to Switzerland.
They got through the so-called ‘Group of Death’ in first place ahead of Portugal and Germany, but never truly blew us away. Yes, they beat Germany but a draw to Hungary didn’t exactly set the world alight, and the 2-2 draw against Portugal wasn’t a performance that’s likely to live long in the memory. Will Didier Deschamps remain in his post? There was talk of him leaving, but it’s been denied by the man himself, and, coming up to a decade in the post, might he want a crack at making France only the third team to win back-to-back World Cups in Qatar next winter?
Ageing squad members
The French team has a good mixture of youth and experience - of the XI that lost on penalties to Switzerland, seven started against Croatia in the final of the World Cup in 2018, while three of that cohort also started the Euro 2016 final against Portugal: Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. Blaise Matuidi, Laurent Koscielny, and - whisper it quietly - Olivier Giroud have all been or are being phased out of the team, with talents like Benjamin Pavard, Presnel Kimpembe and of course Kylian Mbappe entering their prime.
That said, Lloris is 35 this year, and will turn 36 just after the World Cup ends next year. France’s number one for over a decade, his eventual replacement will have some big shoes to fill. Steve Mandanda, for so long his deputy, is a year or two older, while new AC Milan signing Mike Maignan, also named in the squad for this year’s Euros, has excelled in Ligue 1 for Lille but lacks experience on the international front with just one cap to his name at the age of 26.
A core component of the French team were all born in the early nineties and will either be in their early thirties or just shy of the big 30 by the time Qatar rolls around:
Paul Pogba - 1993
Raphael Varane - 1993
Lucas Digne - 1993
N’Golo Kante - 1991
Antoine Griezmann - 1991
Lloris, Giroud, Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko are all ‘80s kids, and 2022 might be their last chance to shine. While the French team definitely didn’t live up to expectations this year, they have a good shot at winning the World Cup again in a year and a half - with the same nucleus of the squad.
Gradual evolution - Euro 2024 glory?
Looking to Euro 2024, however, there will be some changes. While players of the calibre of Kante and Varane are likely to remain important members of the squad, there will have to be some alterations. Mbappe will be 25 and will almost definitely be the best player in the team - let’s look past his Euro 2020 woes - while a 27-year-old Ousmane Dembele could well be living up to his potential by then.
Then there’s Eduardo Camavinga. The 18-year-old, who made his top-flight debut at 16, is one of the most highly-rated teenagers in world football, often mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Jude Bellingham and Pedri. While not in the senior squad for the Euros this year, he’s amassed three caps and will be featuring at the Olympics this summer too. Come Euro 2024, he’ll still be just 21, and seeing him line up alongside Pogba, ten years his senior, isn’t something that opposing teams would look forward to.
Predicting France’s line-ups next year and in Euro 2024 would be futile, as so much can change with injuries and star players appearing out of nowhere, but it would be no surprise to see the following players feature heavily in 2024 - whether as nailed-on starters or contenders for the first XI:
Ousmane Dembele - 1997
Kylian Mbappe - 1998
Jules Kounde - 1998
Dayot Upamecano - 1998
Ibrahima Konate - 1999
William Saliba - 2001
Eduardo Camavinga - 2002
Add to the mix the likes of Marcus Thuram, Jean-Clair Todibo and Amine Gouiri, as well as a smattering of players from the early-to-mid nineties, and France could again build a squad that’s fit for success. Of course, it’s not guaranteed – their ill-fated efforts at the 2010 World Cup an example of just how badly it could go wrong – but on the whole, there are certainly reasons to be cheerful for Les Bleus.
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