World ranking: 17

Best European Championship finish: Winners, 1984, 2000

How they qualified: Automatically as competition hosts

Fixtures: Romania (10 June), Albania (15 June), Switzerland (19 June)

Squad –

Goalkeepers: Benoit Costil (Rennes), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

Defenders: Lucas Digne (Roma), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Christophe Jallet (Lyon), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Adil Rami (Sevilla)

Midfielders: Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Lassana Diarra (Marseille), N'Golo Kante (Leicester), Blaise Matuidi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)

Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Andre-Pierre Gignac (Tigres), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Dimitri Payet (West Ham)

Expectation building on France and Pogba. Getty


Boasting a squad bubbling with thriving young talent, France unquestionably begin Euro 2016 as one of the favourites.

Les Bleus will of course be without Karim Benzema in the squad, after the Real Madrid striker was banished for his alleged involvement in a blackmail attempt on teammate Mathieu Valbeuna, who also misses out. Raphael Varane has withdrawn due to injury, joining Chelsea's Kurt Zouma on the sidelines, with Mamadou Sakho is serving a drugs ban. Plenty has threatened to knock France off course in the build-up and Benzema's absence will be felt, but in Paul Pogba, they have a player who can enjoy a career-defining competition in the coming weeks.

In Bayern Munich and Manchester United forwards Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial, they also have two of Europe's most prodigiously talented attackers, with Antoine Griezmann already among the best in his position. Wherever you look across this France team, there is pace and power, with Paris Saint-Germain's Blaise Matuidi and Leicester City's N'Golo Kante offering relentless energy in midfield, and the resurgent Lassana Diarra an option to anchor the centre of the park. While options in defence are rather light, elsewhere across the pitch France have perhaps the deepest squad available.

Anthony Martial
Martial to have key role in any France success. Getty

France have enjoyed playing the role of hosts. In Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup, they made the show their own, winning both competitions and going on to win the Euro 2000 in Belgium and Netherlands. While we have seen competition hosts crumble under that pressure – such as Brazil two years ago – France seem to thrive on it.

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Having led France to their World Cup success on the pitch, Didier Deschamps is looking to enjoy home advantage once more and guide his side to a third major international victory on French soil. As is par for the course for the manager of the France national team, Deschamps has had to endure the occasional fraught relationship with some of his players with Samir Nasri, Alexandre Lacazette – who missed out on the final squad – and Dimitri Payet among those to have clashed with him. But in comparison to former campaigns where infighting and bad blood have marred proceedings, Deschamps' squad is a relatively harmonious bunch.

Having reached the Champions League semi-final with Monaco in 2004, guided Juventus back to Serie A following the Calciopoli scandal in 2006 and Marseille to the Ligue 1 crown before taking the national team reins in 2012, the 47-year-old is taking charge of just his second major tournament as France manager. After elimination to eventual champions Germany at the 2014 World Cup, this is his chance to leave a mark.

Prediction: Winners – Though Deschamps is without several influential defenders and has been accused of racism for his omission of controversial figure Benzema, France's stock-piling of players makes them well-equipped to repeat the heroics from the 1998 World Cup – when they prevailed on home turf. A squad selected on form, rather than reputation, should sweep all aside.