Exit for ‘underwhelming’ France could be ‘brutal’

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Image caption: Deschamps won the 1998 World Cup with France as a player and the 2018 tournament as manager

France were expected to set Euro 2024 alight as one of the favourites, but they endured an underwhelming group stage and slumped to a second-placed finish.
They beat Austria in their opening game, but only with an own-goal winner. A 0-0 draw with the Netherlands followed before they shared the spoils in a 1-1 stalemate with Poland.
Didier Deschamps’ side lifted the 2018 World Cup and finished runners-up at the 2022 tournament in Qatar, but they have failed to sparkle as expected in Germany.

“Suddenly the ruthlessness we’ve been used to is just not there any more,” French football journalist Julian Laurens told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast.
Despite being below-par, France have at least managed to reach the last 16 and face Belgium on Monday (17:00 BST).
But if Deschamps fails to guide his side to the quarter-finals after ending up on the trickier side of the draw, he could get “torn apart”.
“There’s this lack of momentum, where usually that is not there either,” added Laurens. “Suddenly the few certainties you had before are not even there anymore.
“Bring on the last 16, for sure. That’s where they’ll be judged.”
‘This is not the team we expected’
France created 5.93 expected goals in their three group-stage games but failed to score from open play, with their two goals being the Austria own goal and a penalty for Kylian Mbappe against Poland.
Laurens said “there’s a point where it starts getting really worrying” if they keep struggling in front of goal.
“They’ve been a bit underwhelming, certainly in the last game against Poland,” he added.
“The fact that they create chances is something the players and Deschamps keep repeating, saying ‘the chances are there, we’re just not taking them’.”
Deschamps has been France manager since 2012 and led his team to three major finals, but they have not been able to replicate that form at Euro 2024.
Laurens said: “This is not the team we expected, this is not the team we used to know in big tournaments.
“That’s maybe where the worry is because if Deschamps has lost the thing that made him and that team special… maybe that’s because it’s been too long – he’s been there for 10 years now.”
‘France are going to have a tough time’
German football expert Raphael Honigstein said it was “beyond carelessness” that France failed to beat already-eliminated Poland to win the group – and therefore ended up on the side of the draw with Spain, Germany and Portugal.
“You can have bad performances but to give away winning a group and being on the much easier side of the group in that fashion, that’s really stupid,” he said.
With France struggling, Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague said it hands their opponents “an opportunity to have a go”.
“It’s probably the only chance in the whole tournament we’re going to have a chance to have a go at France before they win it,” he added.
“It’s no question, they’re going to have a tough time to actually win this one.”
Belgium reached the last 16 by finishing second in Group E, where all four teams were tied on four points.
They recorded just one win – a 2-0 success against eventual group winners Romania.
‘The players aren’t worried’
The knockouts could be an opportunity for France to show their true strength, although Laurens said the lack of “confidence” will not help.
“I guess we have to trust them,” he added. “They’re not worried. The players aren’t worried, Deschamps isn’t worried – he says it’s now that the competition starts, which is partly true of course.
“But I guess it’s easier to approach a knockout stage at a big tournament like this if you have a bit of confidence, some momentum if you’ve done well.”
Winning against neighbours Belgium is crucial, or Deschamps could face a “brutal” reaction in his homeland.
Laurens said: “We’ll see against Belgium, the old enemy of course, and so much rivalry. There’s more than just a football match.
“If France don’t win that one – if they win and don’t play well then it won’t matter so much – then I think it could be quite brutal against Deschamps.”

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