For many of the pundit class commenting on France’s World Cup Final victory in 2018, the word “dynasty” hung in the air as they waxed lyrical about where Didier Deschamps team could go next. Like Spain a decade ago, it seems there is an opportunity for Les Bleus to dominate football for a generation. Just like Spain, they could maybe go on to win a couple of European Championships, and perhaps do what hasn’t been done in well over half a century – win consecutive World Cups.
The above is not just idle conjecture. Sometimes a World Cup-winning side tends to herald the endpoint of a team’s journey – see Germany in 2014, for example. Whereas, at other times, it’s the beginning of one. Of all 32 squads that headed to Russia in 2018, only Nigeria (average age of 25.9 years) had a younger collection of players than France (26.0 years, tied with England).
A young defence can evolve
Most will point to players like Kylian Mbappé as evidence that France could find a higher summit. After all, he has (hopefully) yet to hit his peak. However, France’s youth is most apparent in its defence. It’s been well over a year since Deschamps called up any defender over the age of 27. Those at the back could also blossom and gain experience, giving France the platform to succeed over the next few major tournaments.
And yet, it is with a raised eyebrow that we look at some of the betting markets for those major tournaments. According to the football betting odds with 888sport and others, France are favourites for the World Cup in Qatar. 6/1 is quoted as the price for a second successive victory. It’s hard to argue with that tag. They are the champions, after all, and, as we have pointed out, there is still room for the squad to improve further.
And yet, when we look at the Euro 2021 odds, France are down as third-favourites at 7/1, coming in behind England (5/1) and Belgium (11/2). It seems strange, right? If you also look further down the World Cup odds, England and Belgium are fifth and sixth favourites respectively, behind other European clubs like Germany and Spain, as well as Brazil. So, we have a scenario where England and Belgium are more favoured than France to win the European Championships next summer, but considerably less favoured to win the World Cup in the winter of 2022.
A ‘home’ tournament for England
One possible hypothesis is the venue for the semi-finals and final of Euro 2021 – Wembley. Moreover, England will also play their group games at Wembley. Much has been made about the pan-European hosting of Euro 2021, but for England, it’s almost like a home tournament. That has to be factored into the odds-setting.
The second area we have to look at is the group stages. While there are still some teams that need to qualify, we have some idea of the groups. And, France have a veritable “Group of Death” situation. They’ll face Germany and Portugal in the group stages, as well as a qualifier. England (Croatia, Czechia, Qualifier) and Belgium (Russia, Finland, Denmark) have much kinder draws.
Those two factors combine to push France out in the betting markets for the Euros. We know that Deschamp brought a young squad to Russia, and that it has the capacity to improve. But other factors can combine in football to thwart the progress of a team. But if France succeed at Euro 2021, getting out of that tough group, perhaps beating England on their home turf. Then, they will be even firmer favourites for the World Cup in Qatar.