Only three teams – West Germany (1972, ’74), France (1998, 2000) and Spain (2010, ’12) have been world and European champions at the same time with the French on course to complete the double-double.
Didier Deschamps made history in 2018 when he joined Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer as the only men to win the World Cup as both a player and a coach – but now the French head coach has his eyes on a prize all of his own.
France are one of only three countries to have been world and European champions at the same time, and Deschamps captained them to glory during both those campaigns in 1998 and 2000.
Having done it as captain he’s now plotting to do so as a manager as well, having already guided Les Bleus to victory at the last World Cup three years ago in Russia. And at
5/1, France are firmly among the favourites this summer.
It would be an incredible achievement, even more so when you consider that even now, despite everything he has achieved, the man once famously derided as nothing more than a ‘water carrier’ by Eric Cantona, is still not universally popular in his homeland.
France Need to Overcome Group Grief to Make Progress
That France go into the delayed European Championship finals among the favourites is nothing new.
They did so five years ago on home soil and cruised serenely into the final where they were widely expected to make light work of a stuttering, spluttering Portugal.
Unfortunately for a packed house at the Stade de France and millions of their supporters, it was the French who stuttered and spluttered in the final, going down to a shock 1-0 loss.
Two years later, presented with a chance to avenge that heartache in the World Cup, they made no mistake, showing the scars had well and truly healed by being crowned world champions for a second time.
Many of that team are still part of a French group who qualified comfortably enough for these finals despite dropping four points against group runners-up Turkey.
Their reward, however, was being pitched into a brute of a group which features away games in Germany and Hungary plus a possible decider against Portugal.
5/4 to win Group F, arguably the most competitive of all the six sections.
Old Head Giroud Could Be Key to Success
Deschamps is blessed with a sumptuously talented squad, propped up by Hugo Lloris in goal, a glut of defensive options and the magnificent N’golo Kante to anchor everything in midfield.
And ahead of them in the head coach’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation the riches are arguably even more abundant.
All eyes inevitably will be on Kylian Mbappe, who came of age at the World Cup and at the tender age of 22 is already a superstar.
Upon his shoulders rest a nation’s hopes though Mbappe is merely one gem in a glittering potential cast list featuring the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman and, if the mood takes him, Paul Pogba.
And then there’s Olivier Giroud, the central striker who splits opinions but scores goals – only Thierry Henry has bagged more for France.
Pundits seem to agree that the Chelsea frontman, top scorer in qualifying and showing no signs of stopping at the age of 34, simply brings out the best in everyone around him, including Mbappe.
As ever for Deschamps, it’ll be a thankless juggling act but one which he got spot on three years ago. And with a place in the history books beckoning once more, who’s to say he won’t get it spot on again.
*All odds correct at time of writing