August 1, 2021

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Euro football: everything is still possible for the Blues

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“The fact that France draws against Hungary changes absolutely nothing, France probably remains the favorite for the Euro, because it is world champion, with a young team which continues to improve”. These reassuring words do not come from a member of the France team, or even from a blissful observer. But Roberto Mancini, boss of the Italian team, already qualified for the eighth after two games, unlike France.

→ REPORT. Euro 2021: France hits the Budapest wall

This formula must not have escaped the Italian-speaking Didier Deschamps, who played for five years at Juventus, at the time when Mancini wore the jersey of Genoa and then of Rome. Especially since it joins, roughly speaking, its analysis, of a measured but real optimism, formulated after the draw against Hungary. “ You have to be satisfied at times in matches like that. We did not lose, that gives us one more point, it gives us the opportunity to have the cards in hand for the third game ”, said the coach of the France team.

Exactly: at the end of the first two tricks in this group F, called “of death”, with Germany 2014 world champion, Portugal 2016 European champion and France 2018 world champion, everyone can still qualify. Including modest Hungary, 37e global nation, whose footballing glory dates back to the 1950s.

The Hungarians, from their point gleaned against France, can mathematically deprive Germany or Portugal of the round of 16 on Wednesday, June 23. France is not immune to anything, but it would take a very unlikely combination of circumstances, so that the Blues do not grab at least a third place in the group, synonymous with qualification (read below).

Didier Deschamps evokes a turnover between his players

This uncertainty could have been removed from Saturday 19 by a victory. No offense to the boss of the Blues, his boys should have got rid of these valiant but limited Magyars. And the reassuring remarks of Didier Deschamps mask intense reflections that are not very secret, since he has let some clues filter out. ” I do not exclude that there may be a rotation between the players ”, he conceded. Already fueling the rumor mill concerning first and foremost Karim Benzema.

In four games since his return to blue, the latter has neither scored nor delivered an assist, even missing a penalty in preparation against Wales. Saturday 19, he should perhaps not have seen the second half, so much the first was sluggish in the animation and clumsy in front of the goal in the first half.

How can a center-forward from the Madrilenian class, top French scorer in the history of the Champions League, put aside a shot that is in principle unmissable? The answer is the opposite of this unscrewed foot: in the mind of a player victim of the enormous pressure on his shoulders since his return to the France team, after five years of absence. “He has the chances, it will come, the first goal is the hardest”, customs clearance Antoine Griezmann.

Antoine Griezmann confident

Karim Benzema is not, far from it, the only one involved. Paul Pogba, royal against Germany, was transparent against the Hungarians. Raphaël Varane is not exempt from all reproach on the only Hungarian goal, even if it is Benjamin Pavard who bears the main responsibility. Adrien Rabiot was not very sharp …

→ PRACTICAL. Euro 2021: curfew, fan-zones, bars… How to follow the matches?

Part of this small world has also returned to the locker room earlier than expected, supplemented by fresh men who have not done much better. No luck, the best substitute, Ousmane Dembélé, who entered the second half, had to come out of the pitch before the final whistle, victim of a blow. Deprived of training on Sunday, June 20 in Budapest, he had to take exams at the end of the day.

Antoine Griezmann, who celebrated his fiftieth selection on Saturday in a row, was one of the few Blues up to the task and not only because he scored the goal to return to the score. All but a coincidence, it is him that Didier Deschamps sent to speak to the press, Sunday, to find excuses to his teammates and to announce the menu. “We are disappointed, angry, but confident, he said, this match (against Portugal, Editor’s note) we have the team to win it ”.

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Qualification, instructions for use

In this Euro with 24 teams, only 16 will be invited to the round of 16. The top two from each group qualify, as well as the top four third. This last point triggers an inflation of combinations preventing them from already giving their ticket to the Blues.

A victory or a draw against Portugal on Wednesday 23 June would give a first or second place in the group, synonymous with qualification. But in case of defeat, it would get complicated, even if the statistics are clearly favorable. It would therefore be best not to lose against the Portuguese. During the final of Euro 2016, the Blues archi favorites were trapped by the men of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still at the top of his game at 36 years old.

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