Team Profile – France
Number of European Championship Appearances: 10
Best European Championship Performance: Winners (1984, 2000)
Number of European Championship titles: 2
Qualifying Form: N/A (qualified as hosts)
Coach: Didier Deschamps – appointed July 2012
Most Capped Squad Player: Hugo Lloris (74 caps)
Key Player at Euro 2016: Paul Pogba
As the host nation, France go into Euro 2016 certain to be greeted with huge levels of expectation wherever they look. Luckily, Les Bleus have a strong record when it comes to matching home hopes.
When they last hosted the European Championship in 1984, France powered to success inspired by the goalscoring feats of Michel Platini as they defeated Spain in the final.
Fast forward 14 years and it was Zinedine Zidane that helped France to their sole World Cup triumph to date, as they overcame Brazil in the brand new purpose-built Stade de France.
Current boss Didier Deschamps was captain of that 1998 team and will be keen to secure his legacy still further by guiding France to a third European Championship success this summer.
On paper, France have been dealt a favourable hand in Group A.
They open the tournament on June 10 against Romania in the Stade de France, before moving on to Montpellier on June 15 to face Albania and concluding against Switzerland in Lille four days later.
Confidence is sure to be sky high within the squad that they can come out on top of that section and, in so doing, present themselves with a great chance to embellish further their impressive record of having reached at least the last-eight in four of the last five European Championships.
Without a qualifying campaign to undertake as hosts, Deschamps – who will celebrate four years as French boss in July – has had two years to prepare his squad for this moment.
Their last competitive action was a World Cup quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, where they were undone by an early header from Mats Hummels against eventual winners Germany.
Looking back, it was a fine margin of exit for a team that had scored ten times in four games, conceding only twice during their progress in Brazil.
While the argument can be made that a lack of competitive action is far from ideal in the run up to Euro 2016, France can count Spain, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands and Russia in their list of recent friendly victories.
Deschamps will be happy with where his squad are at going into the tournament and – inwardly at least – the French coach must feel that Group A offers a chance to ease themselves into the heat of battle.
The French squad will be the envy of many competing nations at Euro 2016.
Hugo Lloris is a rock-solid proposition between the sticks while Deschamps can call upon experienced players like Laurent Koscielny, Jeremy Mathieu, Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna in his backline.
A late thigh injury means that France are deprived of Real Madrid centre back Raphael Varane and he has been replaced by Sevilla’s Adil Rami.
Young full-back Lucas Digne has excelled on loan at Roma this season and ought to be pushing veteran Evra hard for the left-back slot.
N’Golo Kante has sparkled at Leicester City this season and his workrate and ability to cover ground should be invaluable to France. Deschamps’ midfield options also include Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi, Lassana Diarra and Dimitri Payet.
West Ham’s Payet has not always been in favour with the national team coach, Deschamps suggesting he struggled to bring club form to the table at international level. He has however won over his manager since coming back in for the March friendlies against Netherlands and Russia, and Payet is worthy of the chance to grace a major tournament football.
Juventus powerhouse Paul Pogba is the axis of this French team, with his powerful striding industry in midfield and the ability to operate as a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for goal.
Up front, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann and Anthony Martial of Manchester United offer pace and the willingness to stretch the opposition. In Olivier Giroud, France have an old-fashioned target man when required. Even without Karim Benzema, France have plenty striking options with Andre-Pierre Gignac also a threat.
Key Player – Paul Pogba
Pogba delivered impressive performances for France at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. Now, at 23, he is primed for the key moment in his career to date as he attempts to drive France to success on home soil.
Pogba has rapidly developed into the complete midfielder and his services are attracting interest from all of Europe’s big hitters.
He seems set to further enhance his reputation during Euro 2016, where he is likely to feature in Deschamps’ favoured three-man midfield.
Euro 2016 Prospects
It will surprise nobody if France are back in the Stade de France on July 10 for the final of Euro 2016.
Undoubtedly, the French strength lies in the attacking third, where Griezmann, Martial, Payet and Pogba are capable or running riot.
If they safely navigate themselves out of Group A, France will have to answer questions surrounding their defence. They conceded four times in two friendlies in March and almost half of the goals France have conceded under Deschamps’ watch have followed opposition set pieces.
That is how Hummels ended their interest in Brazil two summers ago and if Les Bleus are to rule once more on home soil, they must tighten up at the back.
June 10 – Romania (Stade de France, Paris)
June 15 – Albania (Stade Velodrome, Marseille)
June 19 – Switzerland (Stade Lille Metropole, Lille)
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Benoit Costil (Rennes)
Defenders: Adil Rami (Sevilla), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Lucas Digne (Roma), Christophe Jallet (Lyon)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Juventus), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Leicester City), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres)