Bhubaneswar, 9 May-2014, Abhijit Saha: IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) has reached in the state…
Oh, the pressure of playing a major tournament on home soil. Most teams would be expected to buckle under it — 2014 and Brazil is not a distant memory. But France has been there and bucked the trend, twice.
And coach Didier Deschamps — with an array of players most other managers would kill for in his ranks — will surely invoke the memories of 1984 (UEFA Euro) and 1998 (FIFA World Cup, incidentally a tournament he won as a player).
Attention will undoubtedly be centred on Juventus playmaker Paul Pogba and how he pulls the strings from the middle. If France does win, in all likelihood it will come to be known as Pogba’s tournament.
Anything less than the title or at the very least a title-round appearance would be termed a failure for this powerhouse team.
To quote an oft-used ad tag line, Dmitri Payet is France’s pride and the rivals’ envy. Blessed with astounding skills, not least of which is his ability to take sublime goal-scoring free-kicks, Payet for all accounts and purposes is the Les Bleus’ trump card.
FOX IN THE BOX:
We needn’t look further than Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann for this role. His time under Diego Simeone has seen him grow and blossom into a lethal striker.
Swift of foot and with intelligent movement off the ball — he more often than not pops up with oodles of space with which to run in at the opposition goal — the diminutive Frenchman has struck fear in his club opponents.
Expect an encore as he dons national colours and tangos with Pogba and Payet as they play provider to his goal-poaching.
4-3-3 seems to be the flavour of the season and France, blessed with an exceptionally talented midfield, is no exception.
Dechamps will aim to milk this and bank on Pogba and Leicester’s N’Golo Kante to dictate terms while a three-pronged attack of Anthony Martial, Griezmann and Payet seems most likely.
Injuries to key defenders mean that senior pros like Bacary Sagna, Patrice Evra and Laurent Koscielny — the trio not the fastest lot anymore — will be tasked with shielding Hugo Lloris under the bar.
Sagna – Mangala – Koscielny – Evra
Matuidi – Kante – Pogba
Martial – Griezmann – Payet
FUN FACT: Host France will, mathematically speaking, be the odds-on favourite according to statistics provided by researchers at the University of Innsbruck.
According to them, France has a winning probability of 21.5 per cent, closely followed by Germany with a winning probability of 20.1 per cent.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Benoit Costil, Steve Mandanda.
Defenders: Lucas Digne, Patrice Evra, Christophe Jallet, Laurent Koscielny, Eliaquim Mangala, Adil Rami, Bacary Sagna, Samuel Umtiti.
Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye, Morgan Schneiderlin, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, Moussa Sissoko.
Forwards: Kingsley Coman, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet.