30th March 2016. By Karl Matchett.
France produced another goal-laden performance as they beat Russia 4-2 on Tuesday, once again showcasing their admirable attacking prowess and great depth in options.
For manager Didier Deschamps, it was another indication that his side are genuine potential winners of the UEFA European Championships this summer on home soil-even if key striker Karim Benzema remains unavailable, currently suspended from the national team due to ongoing investigations into a sex tape scandal involving national team mate Mathieu Valbuena.
The options for Deschamps are hugely varied, both in age and experience and in roles performed in the front line. A typical lineup under Deschamps sees France play a 4-3-3, pairing mobile forwards with a physical approach from deeper in midfield, where Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi typically surge from. Now, to that zone, N'Golo Kante can also be added.
Olivier Giroud has long been an alternative to Benzema but is now arguably further than ever from the starting XI, despite the absence of the Real Madrid attacker; unable to regularly be in the lineup or on the scoresheet for Arsenal, Giroud is now being sidelined at international level too. Instead, seeing opportunities come his way again is Andre-Pierre Gignac, scorer against Russia and a real threat to Giroud's place in the squad for the Euros.
Antoine Griezmann is a guarantee for a spot on the plane, capable of playing either through the middle in a 4-3-3, out wide cutting infield to impact the attack or even being paired in a two-man offence, as Deschamps has changed things up to at times. His level of quality and his strike rate in a top side probably mark him out as a starter once the Euros role around-but at least one wide spot remains up for grabs.
Prodigious young talents Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman have been incredibly impactful from wide areas; both are probably in line for call-ups for the tournament-but both are also more than likely set to be used as impact substitutes, or else replacements for one another in games.
Then there is West Ham United's in-form Dimitri Payet, a member of the France squad for some time now yet still to really establish himself as a starter, while the man who is involved in the case with Benzema, Valbuena, could easily be a starter once again if he finds form and fitness before the championships begin.
Deschamps is hugely blessed with the long line of talent he has to pick from, with his front line giving multiple options in the way they attack sides as a unit and individually. While the boss might well have a preferred troika to start matches, rotation and substitutions will play a big part for France being able to win games in different ways; there is the pace and trickery of Coman or Martial, the all-round ability of Griezmann as a scorer or link man and the aerial threat brought to the table by Giroud and Gignac.
Tactically and technically, they have a greater range to pick from for their squad than arguably any other offensive set-up in Europe, rivalling and quite possibly beating Germany for the front line alone and certainly having more top-tier talents for the entire 23 overall. Indeed, it can be suggested that Deschamps' biggest problem this summer will be for who to ignore and leave out, especially if all stay fit.
By the time the season ends, the European Championships are ready to start and Deschamps has to whittle down his chosen players to a group of 23, France should be hugely confident about their chances of challenging for silverware on home soil. Their attack will get the better of plenty of defences standing in front of them-it's only France's own back line, not yet as imperious as it might be despite being reasonably consistent over the past few years, which could hold them back.