The reigning World Cup champions are many bookies’ favourites to triumph at this summer’s European Championship, having finished runners-up on home soil in 2016.
But there is set to be more modest interest in France’s Fantasy assets in the EURO 2020 group stage, at least in Matchdays 1 and 3.
Only four of their players have double-digit ownerships in the official EURO 2020 Fantasy game at the time of writing; that’s fewer than the likes of Spain, England and Belgium.
That’s largely because Les Bleus have been drawn in the obligatory ‘Group of Death’, with clashes against Germany and Portugal sandwiched by a more palatable fixture against Hungary.
The opening two matches for Didier Deschamps’ side are also ‘away’ games, with Munich and Budapest playing host.
But we know what we are getting with the two-time European champions, who have been quarter-finalists or better in each of their last four tournament appearances.
Not only is the manager a known quantity in this his ninth year in charge, the team is largely the same as the one that secured the World Cup in 2018.
As many as nine of the starting XI that defeated Croatia in the final three years ago could make the line-up in Munich on Tuesday, with Samuel Umtiti and Blaise Matuidi set to be replaced by Presnel Kimpembe and Adrien Rabiot/Corentin Tolisso.
And then there is the thoroughly unexpected return of Karim Benzema to the national team set-up after five years away, a recall that bolsters Deschamps’ options in attack – albeit one that does come with a risk or two given the Real Madrid striker’s temperamental nature.
In partnership with UEFA, we continue our series of EURO 2020 articles by examining France in detail to see if any of their players can compete for a place in your Fantasy teams.
THE ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
Qualification wasn’t quite blip-free for France, who only took one point from a possible six against Turkey and had to rely on spot-kicks to see off Iceland and Moldova.
Despite the array of attacking talent at Deschamps’ disposal, Les Bleus’ total of 25 qualifying goals was 15 short of what Belgium managed.
They were ranked only 14th among the European nations for minutes per chance, meanwhile.
At the other end of the pitch, France conceded to the might of Albania and Moldova but still ended their qualification campaign having allowed the fewest number of shots (47) on the continent.
FRANCE’S EURO 2020 QUALIFICATION RECORD
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
Since the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign came to an end, France have been involved in 13 Nations League ties, World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies.
A shock defeat at the hands of Finland was mitigated by the fact that a mostly second-string team had been selected, with a thumping 7-1 win over Ukraine in October 2020 the highlight of the last year.
FRANCE’S MATCHES IN 2020 AND 2021
|Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Goals for||Goals against||Clean sheets|
Deschamps favoured a 4-2-3-1 for much of EURO 2020 qualification but more recently has trialled a wing-back system and now a 4-4-2 diamond, a formation he turned to in the June warm-up games against Wales and Bulgaria – matches in which his starting XI looked to be close to full strength.
The average position map from the Wales match (above) shows Kylian Mbappe (number 10) and Karim Benzema (19) operating just in front of Antoine Griezmann (7) in the hole, with a midfield three of Paul Pogba (6), Corentin Tolisso (12) and Adrien Rabiot (14) further back.
N’Golo Kante, given a breather against Wales after his UEFA Champions League final heroics, was back in the starting XI against Bulgaria and is a first-choice pick alongside Pogba, leaving Rabiot and Tolisso in a scrap for the remaining spot.
What is widely assumed to be Deschamps’ first-choice back four – Benjamin Pavard (2), Raphael Varane (4), Presnel Kimpembe (3) and Lucas Hernandez (21) – were also called upon in both June matches, stationed in front of Hugo Lloris (1).
EURO 2020 QUALIFYING STATS
- Most starts: Antoine Griezmann (10), Raphael Varane (9), Oliver Giroud (8), Benjamin Pavard (7), Corentin Tolisso, Hugo Lloris, Blaise Matuidi (6)
- Most goals: Oliver Giroud (6), Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, Kylian Mbappe (3)
- Most assists: Antoine Griezmann (8), Kylian Mbappe (3), Nabil Fekir (2)
- Goals scored: 25
- Goals conceded: 6
- Clean sheets: 5
THE KEY TARGETS
Given that ‘ball recoveries’ are not rewarded with points in the official UEFA Fantasy game (as they are in the Champions League version), it seems a little odd that N’Golo Kante (€5.5m) finds himself as the most-owned midfielder in the entire game; perhaps the Chelsea man’s cut-price availability and his recent real-life heroics are influencing thinking there.
Indeed there is relatively little to interest Fantasy managers in the France midfielders pool, with Paul Pogba (€8.5m) mirroring his current lack of FPL appeal by not offering much attacking-wise for his motherland: it’s zero international goals and one meagre assist since the World Cup final three years ago.
Most of the big guns are classed as forwards, and there are few bigger than Kylian Mbappe (€12.0m).
The Paris Saint-Germain star is the joint-most-expensive asset in the official EURO 2020 Fantasy game, although his goalscoring record – 17 strikes in 44 appearances – is someway short of elite level.
Mbappe has only delivered attacking returns in one of his last five run-outs for Les Bleus but there have been encouraging signs: in the last two friendlies against Wales and Bulgaria, the wunderkind racked up a whopping 32 penalty box touches.
Above: France forwards sorted by penalty box touches in their last two games. More international stats can be found in our Premium Members Area, with recent friendlies and EURO 2020 qualification both covered.
Fantasy managers will also have fond memories of the penalty-taking Antoine Griezmann (€11.0m) from his exploits in the World Cup three years ago, although three subsequent (and consecutive) misses from 12 yards has seen the Barcelona man lose control of spot-kick duties.
The recent underlying stats suggest he is less of an open-play goal threat than France’s other first-team forwards (four shots across Les Bleus’ two recent friendlies was five fewer than Mbappe managed) but the fact is that he arrives at this summer’s tournament in fine fettle, having registered attacking returns in each of his last five international appearances – with four goals among them.
Griezmann does retain corner-taking responsibilities, too, and offers a bit of assist potential: in EURO 2020 qualification, the Barca man carved out three times as many chances (42) as France’s next-most creative player.
Above: France forwards sorted by chances created in EURO 2020 qualification. More international stats can be found in our Premium Members Area, with recent friendlies and EURO 2020 qualification both covered.
At the back, France’s regular back four all come in between €5.5m and €6.5m.
Left-back Lucas Hernandez (€6.5m) is the most expensive of them all but has traditionally offered a modest attacking threat for club and country, so Bayern Munich team-mate Benjamin Pavard (€6.0m) is perhaps more appealing at half a million cheaper.
Pavard’s stunner against Argentina in the 2018 World Cup still lingers long in the memory and he signed off ahead of EURO 2020 by providing an assist in France’s 3-0 win over Bulgaria this week, creating three chances in the process.
Raphael Varane (€6.0m) bagged a couple of goals during EURO 2020 qualification, with his total of nine shots beaten only by three teammates in those qualifiers.
Not long shots in the maverick differential sense, Karim Benzema (€10.0m) and Olivier Giroud (€8.0m) feature in this section as they are likely competing for one starting spot.
Giroud has long been favoured by Deschamps despite featuring only sporadically at club level but the recent end of Benzema’s exile has made things interesting up top, with the Real Madrid hitman starting both of France’s warm-up fixtures alongside Griezmann and Mbappe.
Benzema racked up an eye-catching 13 attempts on goal in those victories over Wales and Bulgaria but failed to find the net with any of them, succumbing to a minor knock in the latter game and seeing Giroud come off the bench to score twice late on.
“He took a good hit on the muscle above the knee. He stopped playing because he felt it hardening but the medical staff are at his side.
“We have a high level medical staff, we are going to do the right thing. It will get better day by day. I have no particular concern this evening. There is nothing dramatic.” – Didier Deschamps on Karim Benzema’s injury
FANTEAM PRICE CORNER
Kylian Mbappe is listed at an eye-watering €13.0m in the FanTeam game, with Antoine Griezmann again more affordable at €10.5m.
Olivier Giroud is identically priced at €8.0m, which could turn out to be a relative snip should Benzema’s injury be anything other than minor.
All of France’s defenders come in between €6.0m and €6.5m, with Hugo Lloris the joint-most expensive goalkeeper in the game at €7.0m.
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