After their calamitous 2010 World Cup under Raymond Domenech which descended into full-on squad mutiny and rebellion. Former defender and World Cup winner, Laurent Blanc has been left picking up the pieces and has done very well in doing so. Blanc’s side are now on the longest unbeaten run of the 16 teams that have qualified for Poland-Ukraine. Les Bleus have not suffered defeat in 20 games since September 2010 where they were beaten in the first game of their qualification campaign against Belarus.
Blanc, in his first game in charge dropped the 23 players that travelled to South Africa in 2010, removing, in particular, divisive dressing room figures who shamed this country and replacing them with the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Yann M’Vila and Karim Benzema who was left out of the final-23 for the World Cup have all become regular starters under Blanc.
France’s qualifying group was certainly a challenge for them and they didn’t exactly run away with the group. A defeat to Belarus in the opening group game was worrying but, France remained unbeaten after than notching up six wins and three draws which saw them finish one point ahead of Bosnia & Herzegovina on 21 points. Just four goals conceded (15 scored at the other end) and six clean sheets in the 10 group games shows that Blanc has restored stability to this French side.
Consistency, as displayed in France’s unbeaten run will be something they will need to maintain in the course of the tournament. Qualifying as group winners should certainly be in the mind of the players and the manager. However, Yann M’Vila will miss the opening against England after suffering a mild ankle sprain in friendly game against Serbia a couple of days ago – he is expected to be fit for the other two group games against Ukraine and Sweden.
Having finished bottom of their group at Euro 2008 and again at the 2010 World Cup, France can’t really afford to have a third poor tournament on the trot, but that doesn’t look likely this time around, certainly not on Laurent Blanc’s watch. Not too dissimilar to Italy, the French go into the tournament both under and perhaps off the radar. Blanc’s side could be the dark horses of this tournament and surprise a lot of people.
Fixtures: France vs. England (June, 11th), France vs. Ukraine (June, 15th) and France vs. Sweden (June, 19th)