Football News

France route to the final: Who could Les Bleus face in Euro 2024 showpiece?

By Andy Watson

Published: 10:34, 8 July 2024

France are in the Euro 2024 semi-finals, where they will face Spain. Let’s take a look at who might await them if they go one stage further.

Didier Deschamps’ men were expected to finish top of Group D but had to settle for second in the end. Although they went unbeaten in the groups, five points were not enough to seal top spot. And now they’re in for a tough run to Berlin.

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France’s potential route to Euro 2024 final

France’s route as Group D runners-up 

Last 16: After finishing second, France faced the Group E runners-up Belgium and came away with a narrow 1-0 victory thanks to another own goal.

Quarter-final: The win over Belgium set up a quarter-final clash with Portugal in a repeat of the Euro 2016 final, which France lost on home soil. Neither side managed to score in normal or extra time, with France winning on penalties thanks to Joao Felix’s miss.

Semi-final: This will be France’s toughest test yet. They play Spain, who beat Germany 2-1 in a game that also went into extra time.

Final: Based on odds and current standings, England would be France’s showpiece opponents. But it could just as easily be the Netherlands, who at least in terms of offensive play and excitement, have performed better than the Three Lions so far.

France’s Group D results

1-0 vs Austria – France were made to work hard for the three points in their opening game against Austria in Dusseldorf. A first-half own goal from Max Wober was the difference between the two teams in the end, although Burschen had a handful of chances to equalise. In truth, Les Bleus could’ve won more comfortably too, with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann both missing big chances in the second half.

0-0 vs Netherlands – Netherlands are always a tricky opponent at a tournament and France were without star man Kylian Mbappe, so boss Didier Deschamps wouldn’t have been too worried by the goalless draw these two sides played out. Oranje came closest to grabbing the win though, with Xavi Simons having a strike ruled out for offside.

1-1 vs Poland – This should have been a France win to secure top spot. It looked that way on paper, but France’s attacking problems showed again. They only managed to breach the Polish net from the penalty spot and then conceded a spot-kick of their own, ending in a 1-1 draw. As a result, France finished second in the group and have a tough run to the final.

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France’s reasons for optimism

On the face of it, there is plenty of cause for optimism for a French fan. Their nation continues to churn out top-quality players by the bucketful. They were the highest-ranked nation going into the tournament, and have recent tournament-winning pedigree from the 2018 World Cup, not to mention a great defence of that title by reaching the final in Qatar. In fact, France have reached the final of three of the past four major tournaments, only failing to do so at Euro 2020.

France’s squad has that experience. Even the relatively young players have succeeded on the biggest stages. But they also have great strength in depth in pretty much every position. Although he is yet to score from open play, Kylian Mbappe is potentially the tournament’s best player — he could still claim that title in the final two games — and averaged better than a goal a game in qualification. There are a couple of Champions League winners in Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga to call upon from the bench too, and former Golden Boot winners Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann.

France’s potential roadblocks

The biggest roadblock to France might also be Kylian Mbappe. Well, France’s entire attack to be more specific. Les Bleus are yet to score from open play at Euro 2024. Their 1-0 wins over Austria and Belgium came via own goals, while Mbappe scored against Poland from the penalty spot. As mentioned, the win over Portugal required penalties after a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes.

There is still widespread opposition to coach Didier Deschamps, despite his period of consistent success as head coach, and incredible contributions as player and captain as well. However, many French supporters believe that the team win in spite of Deschamps’ suffocating tactics, and not because of them.

Didier Deschamps tactical insights

Deschamps’ tactical style can be a little bit cautionary in many observers’ eyes. It is clear that France have immense talent; the complaint is that Deschamps rarely lets off the handbrake.

However, Deschamps knows better than anyone that tournament football is more often won by the teams that give up very little, rather than the entertainers. It may not be the most romantic view of football, and not what the neutral might want to see, but the pragmatist knows the merit of Deschamps’ work and the results tend to speak for themselves.

Deschamps plays a pretty standard 4-2-3-1. The double-pivot of N’Golo Kante and Adrien Rabiot provides a solid base even if it isn’t the most attacking. The full-backs are generally more solid defensively, with Jules Kounde able to come narrow to create a back three to allow Theo Hernandez to push on as an attacking outlet on the left.

This allows Kylian Mbappe to roam wherever he wants, and the likes of Marcus Thuram, Antoine Griezmann, and Ousmane Dembele to complete the attack.

Just in case that lot weren’t enough, Olivier Giroud, Randal Kolo Muani, Bradley Barcola and Kingsley Coman are waiting to come on and change the game. Young talent Warren Zaire-Emery, along with Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, are all also pressing for inclusion in the midfield.

Fan and media perspectives

There is always an expectation for the modern-day French team to win the tournament. While these are big expectations to have, the talent and history is there to back up those thoughts. The French media is certainly there to big up the team, while also ready to criticise the coaching staff at a moment’s notice.

It wasn’t the easiest group to traverse for France, and a poor showing might allow the public to turn on Deschamps. There’s a lot riding on their games now, given France’s side of the draw.

France were many people’s pre-tournament favourites to win the European Championships for a third time. They actually haven’t won the tournament since David Trezeguet’s Golden Goal sealed the deal in Euro 2000, so this is something of a drought for Les Bleus in this competition. They came very close to winning at Euro 2016, but Eder’s extra-time winner gave Portugal their first-ever major senior international tournament success.

But thus far, they’ve battled past two very tough ties in Belgium and Portugal, albeit never allowing themselves to get out of first gear. That in itself could strike fear into the Spaniards, with France perhaps one of the few teams that can stifle their impressive, free-flowing side.

How France qualified for Euro 2024

France qualified for the tournament in facile fashion. A 2-2 draw in Greece was the only blot on an otherwise perfect copybook, with the 14-0 victory over Gibraltar setting a couple of records along the way.

European Championship Qualification – Group B
Position Team Played Won Drawn Lost GF GA Points
1 France 8 7 1 0 29 3 22
2 Netherlands 8 767 0 2 17 7 28
3 Greece 8 4 1 3 14 8 13
4 Rep. of Ireland 8 2 0 6 9 10 6
5 Gibraltar 8 0 0 8 0 41 0