Reigning World Champions, Euro 2020 favourites, and able to omit an XI that would be considered contenders in their own right. France are very much the team to beat this summer.
Any nation that can head into a major tournament without calling up Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, Eduardo Camavinga and Alexandre Lacazette have to be given every chance of being crowned kings of Europe come 11th July.
On top of that, Aymeric Laporte, widely regarded as one of the finest centre halves in the game today, has switched allegiances to Spain after failing to register a single senior appearance for Les Bleus. Included in Spain’s final squad, Didier Deschamps will hope that the Manchester City man doesn’t come back to haunt him later in the tournament.
He need not worry. The 2018 World Cup winners should cope just fine with the likes of Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez to choose from in defence. A midfield boasting N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Kinglsey Coman and Thomas Lemar isn’t too shabby either.
Any hopes of a bit of a dip in quality up top are quickly quashed with the inclusion of Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe. That front three is arguably the strongest in the tournament.
For all their undoubted quality, if France are going to repeat their incredible feat of backing up a World Cup win with a European Championship triumph, as they did in 2000 and 2002, they are going to have to do it the hard way.
Drawn in the Group of Death alongside reigning champions Portugal, 2014 World Cup winners Germany, and dark horses Hungary, the star-studded French line-up are going to have to hit the ground running if they are to avoid a collapse similar to that of the 2002 World Cup – when the holders were dumped out at the group stage without winning a single game.
Their 3-0 victory over Wales on Wednesday evening allayed any such fears, with the aforementioned front trio all gelling superbly. Benzema’s lively display to compliment strikes from both Mbappe and Griezmann will have set alarm bells ringing around the various Euro 2020 camps, and their opener against Germany on 15th June promises to be a spectacle to remember.
If the 5/1 favourites are to go all the way, it will surely rank as their greatest achievement to date considering the opposition they will have to overcome to simply qualify from the group stage.
Should they lift the trophy at Wembley Stadium, where exactly would this French side rank alongside the best national outfits of all time?
In 1998, a nation led by Zinedine Zidane, Deschamps, Marcel Desailly, David Trezeguet and Emmanuel Petit comfortably beat a Brazil side boasting Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Rivaldo. Fringe players Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira were the main attraction two years later, as Les Bleus rallied from a goal down to beat Italy in extra time of their Rotterdam final.
Then there is the Spanish dynasty that bettered the feat set by Aimé Jacquet’s French side a decade earlier by sandwiching the 2010 World Cup trophy in between success in both the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Vicente del Bosque’s pass masters signed off their period of dominance with a 4-0 thumping of poor old Italy in that Euro 2012 final, with Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and co proving too much for just about every team on the planet.
Of course, Pele’s Brazil won three out of four Jules Rimet trophies between 1958 and 1970, with England famously winning on home soil in 1966. Diego Maradona’s Argentina, Franz Beckenbauer’s Germany and Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands are all more than deserving of a mention.
While it is impossible to know which era was the greatest, and where exactly the French stars of today sit, there can be no denying that they belong in the discussion. With the quality set to be on show in the fixtures against both Portugal and Germany, either game would be worthy of the final itself.
For that alone, glory for France in this strangest of times would, at the very least, elevate them alongside the greatest national teams the game has ever known.