Euro 2024: the French team approaches the draw with an advantage, but also some doubts

The French men’s football team probably still has Monday, June 28, 2021 in the back of their minds. That evening, in Bucharest, the Blues saw their journey in the Euro come to an abrupt end in the round of 16. final, beaten by Switzerland on penalties, after having led 3-1.

Then there was this December 18, 2022, where they came close to the world double, in Qatar, before ceding the crown to Argentina after an epic final. Since then, Didier Deschamps is still on the selection bench; its workforce has been slightly renewed.

But the Tricolores are determined to add a new title to their record at the end of the European Nations Championship, which will take place from June 14 to July 14 in Germany.

The Blues easily validated their ticket for the competition, reigning over their qualifying group: seven victories in eight contested matches and only one hitch – entirely relative – at the end of the qualifying campaign, on November 21, against Greece (2 -2). In the absence of the grand slam, this flawless run allows them to be in the first hat, that of the top seeds, during the draw for the group stage of the Euro, organized in Hamburg, Saturday December 2, at 18 hours.

Alongside the host country, France finds the rest of the continental leaders: Portugal, Spain, Belgium and England. This will therefore prevent him from meeting one of these teams at the start of the tournament. The advantage is not negligible. The seeded status has also constantly benefited the Tricolores in their European epics. In 2004 in Portugal, as in 2016 at home, they finished first in their group while remaining undefeated.

France, still second in the ranking of nations of the International Federation of Association Football, certainly worries its potential future adversaries. But she also has to fear. If the format put in place since the 2016 European Championship, bringing the number of teams entered to 24 compared to 16 previously, has contributed to densifying the groups, it has also allowed the appearance of some surprises, which could prove unwelcome. .

Starting with the most surprising: the downgrading of the Italian Squadra Azzurra, title holders, who were placed in hat 4 due to a laborious eliminatory campaign. In this pot, supposedly the weakest, the Transalpines are accompanied by Serbia and Switzerland, teams feared by many selections, that of the Blues in particular. Didier Deschamps made no mistake, at a press conference, after the match against Greece: “Due to the qualified countries and how the hats were constructed, that leaves some uncertainties. With Italy, for example, there may be stronger groups than others. »

“Uncertainty” is the correct term since, this time, the draw takes place without any restrictions. The previous Euro having been organized by several States, the host countries had been previously assigned to certain groups in the event of qualification. There were also restrictions preventing certain nations from confronting each other for political or diplomatic reasons.

This time, only Germany is already guaranteed to appear in Group A. The other top seeds will be distributed in each of the five remaining groups. Then, it will be the turn of the teams in hat 2 to be transferred to one of the six groups. Then those from hat 3 and hat 4, using the same mechanism, will fill the boxes in turn, to complete the final table.

If the composition of the first three hats is already established, the last remains for the moment deprived of half of its members. A situation which can be explained by the holding of a play-off phase (March 21 and 26, 2024) – the last entry point for the continental tournament – ​​reserved for teams having missed their qualifying round, but having distinguished themselves during the latest edition of the League of Nations.

The last three places will be allocated to the winners of the three different “paths”, according to the jargon of the European Union of Football Associations, the body which governs football on a European scale:

The system, already tested during the 2020 edition – postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic – notably allowed North Macedonia to experience its first participation in the European Championship. A feat that Luxembourg, Estonia or Kazakhstan could achieve in turn.

On the other hand, Sweden and Norway of Erling Haaland – winner this year of the Gerd Müller trophy for top scorer and second for the Ballon d’Or –, although expected, did not have the expected results. Not even having had access to the repechage, they will therefore miss the competition.

If the Swedes and Norwegians will not be there this summer, Scandinavia will be represented by the southernmost of its constituent countries: Denmark. News that may delight the Blues, accustomed to clashes with the Red and White during international tournaments, at a recurrence that borders on the paranormal.

In total, the French and Danes found themselves in the same group seven times (four times in the World Cup and three times in the Euro). A happy coincidence, which mainly benefits the two teams, since during the three European editions where they crossed swords in the group stage, one of them won the final trophy: Denmark in 1992, the Blues in 1984 and 2000.

Present in hat 2, the formation of the miraculous Christian Eriksen would also be the toughest of the potential opponents, for the French selection, and could constitute the outline of a so-called “death” group if the Netherlands (hat 3 ) and Italy (hat 4) were added.