France’s opening fixture at Euro 2020 went a long way in boosting morale around the camp, and also reaffirmed the general consensus that Didier Deschamps’ men were favourites to go on and lift the trophy come 11 July.
Indeed, they were strong, composed and managed their 1-0 win over Germany to perfection. Mats Hummels’s first half own goal – forced by the brilliance of Paul Pogba and quality of Lucas Hernandez – put Les Bleus ahead in Munich and from that moment, they were never going to lose.
Facing a Germany side who would inevitably strive for possession and look to create opportunities, a game plan to sit off and and contain the pressure was good enough. And Descamps’ men executed it to perfection. However, for the majority of France’s games throughout this tournament, the onus to ‘play’ will be on them – just as it was on matchday two against Hungary.
In that 1-1 draw against Marco Rossi’s side, the world champions by no means looked out of ideas. In the first half, the front three were, as usual, very fluid and creative ,while Pogba behind them was presenting opportunities to those around him with his typical effortless style.
But, les Bleus simply failed to take their chances. Antoine Griezmann passed up what was practically an open net following up from Karim Benzema’s rebounded effort, while the Real Madrid man himself skewed an effort just wide of Peter Gulacsi’s post minutes after.
Despite their dominance, and courtesy of missed opportunities, France fell behind on the stroke of half time through a wonderfully taken Attila Fiola – who, by the way, is now a national hero – goal. Inevitably, the Hungarians aimed to soak up pressure and see the result out – a real test of France’s bottle.
What is encouraging is that Deschamps’ side continued to create scoring opportunities with good movement up top and a creative spark that was maintained for the majority of the match – but only one went into the back of the net. Griezmann levelled the scores after the hour mark and, while it earned France a point, they should have had much more.
Substitute Ousmane Dembele hit the woodwork minutes after coming on, Kylian Mbappe – while he was fantastic on the day – saw a one-on-one opportunity squandered as Gulacsi came to the hosts’ rescue and a wave of pressure at the death wasn’t enough to force the ball into the net – Raphael Varane passing up a headed opportunity signalling the last action of proceedings.
It was a hugely disappointing result for all those wearing the Tricolore on Saturday afternoon. But it shouldn’t be panic stations yet. After all, les Bleus have picked up four points from their first two Euro 2020 fixtures and look set for another appearance in the knockout stages.
However, should they affirm their status as favourites for success and, eventually, go on to win the tournament, they will need to find a more clinical streak to compliment the abundance of creativity that exists within their ranks – starting with Fernando Santos’ defensively set Portugal on matchday three.