Will France Be Ready for Euro 2016?
As we get ever closer to the 2016 European Championship—which is set to begin on June 10th of next year—it’s becoming easier to speak about the teams that are likely to be there. In fact, after watching most of the UEFA’s national football teams across eight qualifying games apiece, we’re getting to a point where we could feasibly start predicting the frontrunners for next year’s big continental contest. How about England, who have been just about perfect in the qualifying rounds? Or Germany, who are perhaps the de facto frontrunners based on their recent World Cup victory? But will France be ready for Euro 2016? As hosts they have not participated in qualifying giving us less opportunity to scrutinize their performance.
Where Does France Stand?
If there’s one team we’re not sure about, as far as their Euro 2016 readiness is concerned, it’s certainly France. The French national football team will be the hosts of the European Championship in 2016 for the first time since 1984. And while that home field advantage gives the French side a leg up that no other contender will have, it also means that we haven’t gotten to see France play a lot of football lately.
Indeed, while most of UEFA’s teams have been competing for Euro 2016 qualification since last September, France have just been waiting for the qualifiers to finish so that the big tournament can begin. Just like with Brazil at 2014’s World Cup, France’s automatic qualification into Euro 2016 makes it difficult to assess where they stand among Europe’s best soccer teams at this specific moment.
France vs. Portugal
Even though France aren’t competing for Euro 2016 qualification, though, they did get a chance to get out and play some soccer during the first weekend of September—as other UEFA teams played their first qualifying games since June. Portugal, who are in the odd qualifying group for Euro 2016 (Group I, which only has five teams instead of the usual six) had the weekend off from competitive play, and faced France in a friendly instead.
The French national team acquitted themselves well in the match with Portugal, managing to hold the great Cristiano Ronaldo scoreless in his 67 minutes of play, and delivering a late-game goal (courtesy of Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena) to win the game 1-0. Granted, Ronaldo exited the game earlier than he probably would have in a competitive setting, substituted by Ricardo Quaresma midway through the second half, but the win is still a notable one for France.
After all, Portugal are the leaders and expected victors of Euro qualifying Group I (which also includes Denmark, Albania, Serbia, and Armenia). And if Portugal are virtually guaranteed a spot in Euro 2016 at this point, then France’s victory is a pretty good indication that the soon-to-be Euro hosts will be ready to contend for a title next summer. The other friendlies that France have played in 2015, including losses against Brazil, Belgium, and Albania, have been less promising.)
Winning at Home
If France do manage to win a European Championship title at home next year, it wouldn’t be the first time. The French national team have won Euro twice since the event’s inception in 1960, and this will be their third time hosting. France hosted the very first European Championship, ultimately finishing fourth. (Incidentally, none of the top three teams at the 1960 European Championship—the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia—still exist.)
France hosted Euro for a second time in 1984 and beat Spain 2-0 in the final to win their first title at the event. They won again in 2000, beating Italy 2-1 in the championship match, but haven’t gone past the quarterfinals since.
In 2016, France will be gunning for their third European Championship title. If they can manage a second win on home soil, they will join Germany and double reigning champs Spain as the most successful country in the tournament’s history.
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