Even before the surprise inclusion of Karim Benzema in the France squad after a six-year absence, Didier Deschamps’ side were widely seen as frontrunners to go all the way at Euro 2020 this summer. Les Blues already boasted one of the most potent frontlines in the international game. It was this frontline, after all, that fired France to World Cup glory in 2018.
Benzema, however, could take France to another level this summer. At 33, one might assume the Real Madrid forward is on the decline, but he is currently in the form of his life. Indeed, Benzema has never been as influential on a football pitch as he is now. He will give France a real attacking apex.
There will be an element of the unknown about France, specifically their attack, at Euro 2020, though. Benzema has been integrated into the squad at short notice and has only had two warm-up friendlies to familiarise himself with Deschamps’ system and the teammates around him, many of whom have changed since 2015.
In theory, though, the France frontline could be unstoppable and, in Benzema, they have a central focal point to play off and through. The 33-year-old does much more than just provide cutting edge in front of goal, as his performances for Real Madrid this season proved. Only Harry Kane can claim to be as complete a striker as Benzema is.
Antoine Griezmann will likely be given the freedom to fill the space around Benzema and drift wherever he sees space. This is where the Barcelona forward tends to be most effective. This is how Diego Simeone used Griezmann during his time at Atletico Madrid, when the 30-year-old was most devastating.
Then there’s Kylian Mbappe, the 22-year-old speedster who is widely considered the sport’s next best player and a future Ballon d’Or winner. He might already be the best player in the world going on some of the sparkling performances he produced for Paris Saint-Germain in this season’s Champions League. That Ballon d’Or might come this year if he leads France to Euro 2020 glory.
Balance will be key for Deschamps but there’s good reason believe his front three will compliment each other. Benzema will be the creative hub, Griezmann will be the fluid space-filler and Mbappe will be the one who provides vertical thrust, among other things. Football hasn’t seen such a dangerous attacking trio since the days of Barcelona’s MSN (Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar).
Deschamps will need to find width from his full backs or ask Griezmann and Mbappe to drift out to the flanks to prevent France from becoming too congested through the centre of the pitch. Both figures are used to doing this at club level, so the latter wouldn’t be much of an issue. With the right system and approach, there could be no stopping France this summer.
International football tends to work in cycles. Spain dominated for four years between 2008 and 2012 before Germany their time at the top for a few years from 2014. This very much feels like France’s cycle with Les Blues making the final of the last two major tournaments they have played (Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup).
Despite their obvious strength, Deschamps still has a duty to keep his team invigorated and that’s what the call-up of Benzema could do for France who now have more options in the final third. Football is about much more than just goals, but with the firepower the reigning world champions have it might be the thing that makes them unbeatable at Euro 2020.
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