Soccer

Euro 2020: Despite Mbappe and Giroud tension, favorites France ready for opener against Germany

World champions France come into Euro 2020 off the back of two consecutive 3-0 victories over Wales and Bulgaria and although neither performance was spectacular, they were solid enough for Didier Deschamps to feel that his team are ready for next week’s opener against Germany.

Antoine Griezmann scored once in each match while Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele hit the back of the net against the Welsh in Nice and Olivier Giroud came off the bench to grab a brace against the Bulgarians in Paris.

Karim Benzema started both and while he missed a penalty against Wales at Allianz Riviera, he was involved in the build-up to Dembele’s strike and generally looked dangerous as he combined well with Mbappe and Griezmann in attack.

Against Bulgaria at Stade de France, the Real Madrid man was forced off injured after 41 minutes and replaced by Giroud with the Chelsea man helping himself to two second half goals as Les Bleus eventually make it look comfortable.

Benzema’s knee injury, although not expected to threaten his participation at the Euro as a whole, could see him miss the opener against Germany at Allianz Arena in Munich and Giroud has reminded Deschamps already that he can be depended upon on the international stage.

Now 34 and very likely heading into his final international tournament with the French, Giroud continues to lead a bizarre existence with four goals in 17 Premier League outings with Chelsea to six goals from 11 appearances with France indicative of a player who can still deliver — when trusted.

However, Giroud now finds himself at the heart of a controversy concocted just days before the tournament gets underway with his comments after the Bulgaria win the subject of intense scrutiny as the national press appear intent on engineering a rift with Mbappe.

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“I was a little quiet because, sometimes, I make runs and the balls are not forthcoming,” said Giroud to L’Equipe du Soir. “I am not saying that I always make the best runs, but I am seeking to offer solutions in the box.”

Deschamps, apparently feeling that the finger had been pointed in Mbappe’s direction, later reacted to Giroud’s comments.

“If you received the ball each time you called for it, it is always the same,” said the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000-winning former captain. “The attacker says: ‘I am making runs, but it is on the midfield.’ The midfielders will say that it is on the attackers.

“Sometimes, the pass is not forthcoming, sometimes it is down to the movement. But this is not a stigmatization of Kylian, or whoever.”

L’Equipe’s Thursday reports claimed that the Paris Saint-Germain man was so enraged that he wanted to face the press to address Giroud’s barbed comments and pointed thanks to assist providers Benjamin Pavard and Wissam Ben Yedder before Deschamps talked him out of it.

Statistics provided by Opta do show that perhaps there is some truth to the claims that Mbappe does not like to exchange more often than necessary with Giroud as the 22-year-old has passed more than twice as often to Benzema in 114 minutes than Giroud in 349.

It mirrors Mbappe’s situation at club level where teammate Neymar is often accused of doing similar and avoiding passing with teammates of lesser technical ability and favoring linkups with some of his more talented colleagues.

Regardless, a wholly avoidable seed has now seemingly been sown which could set the tone for the rest of this summer’s relationship with the nation via the press as Mbappe and Giroud’s chemistry — or lack of it — will surely be scrutinized in excruciating detail.

Luckily for Deschamps, he can still depend on a maturing Griezmann to be as much of an example off the pitch as he is on it with the Barcelona scoring against both Wales and Bulgaria and then making the dreams of one young fan come true by gifting his boots after the final whistle.

Griezmann is arguably France’s star man and comes into Euro 2020 looking to put a disappointing season in Catalonia behind him and his superb pair of goals in preparation for the Group F kick-off in Germany will have done his confidence the world of good.

Like teammate Paul Pogba, Griezmann appears to thrive in the feelgood atmosphere created by Deschamps within the French squad, and both can leave their respective troubles with Barca and Manchester United at the door when they check into Clairefontaine.

On top of that, France’s defense also looks meaner than ever with four consecutive clean sheets for the first time since 2008 and that will give Deschamps confidence heading into the Euros as some of his more questionable performers at club level over 2020-21 have been in the back line.

It might not be perfect, and Les Bleus will need to shut down the Mbappe-Giroud rift as quickly as possible, but on the pitch at least, preparation for this summer has been as close to ideal as possible — especially if Benzema can shake off his knock to feature heavily from the off.


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