Les Bleus head coach Didier Deschamps unveiled his 26-man squad for this summer’s EURO 2020 championships on Monday 17 June. It was one of the most eagerly awaited announcements among all the nations involved in EURO 2020, not least because Les Bleus are considered one of the pre-tournament favourites. With so much to debate and analyse in the coming weeks, it’s no surprise to see the leading football tipsters and handicappers already making predictions on the outcome of the tournament, with Les Bleus featuring heavily in the thoughts of writers, as well as Gareth Southgate’s England who could play the semi-finals and final on home soil if they get that far.
Another key area that’s up for debate, particularly among French football fans, is the make-up of Deschamps’ EURO 2020 squad. The reigning world champions can call upon the likes of Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches available to Deschamps. There are plenty more talented players that have missed the cut for EURO 2020 too. With some surprise call-ups, including the shock return of striker Karim Benzema, there has been no room for sentiment in the Les Bleus squad this summer.
Within this article, we assess some of those French stars that can consider themselves unlucky not to be part of France’s EURO 2020 bid.
Illan Meslier: Unfortunate not to be part of the goalkeeping trio
Leeds United’s talented French stopper, Illan Meslier, has taken to the English Premier League (EPL) like a duck to water. Although Meslier struggled with the hustle and bustle of the EFL Championship, he appears better suited to the top level. That’s why it’s somewhat mystifying that Deschamps has chosen to overlook him to be one of his three keepers in the EURO 2020 squad. In 2020/21, Meslier became the first keeper to keep more than nine clean sheets in an EPL season aged under 21. Veteran Steve Mandanda and Lille’s Mike Maignan have been picked ahead of Meslier. However, you would have to argue whether Les Bleus require two veteran keepers in Mandanda and Lloris, given that Lloris will be the number-one without question.
Tanguy Ndombele: Misses out despite recapturing his best form in 2020/21
It is fair to say that Tanguy Ndombele has taken his time to settle into his new surroundings in North London. Ndombele arrived at Tottenham Hotspur to tremendous fanfare, with the club forking out £55.45m to secure his services from Lyon in July 2019. Spurs boss Jose Mourinho went public with his criticism for Ndombele’s performances and attitude just months later, insisting he had to “do much better” to remain in the Tottenham first team. Sure enough, Ndombele rediscovered his form that made him such a powerhouse for Lyon in Ligue 1. Despite his return to action and becoming a focal point of the Spurs midfield, Deschamps was clearly concerned by Mourinho’s comments about his professionalism and opted to overlook him for this summer’s Euros.
Anthony Martial: Too much of an injury risk this summer
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Anthony Martial to miss out on France’s 2018 World Cup success in Russia. The Manchester United forward was desperate to be involved in this summer’s EURO 2020 finals, but he suffered heartbreak when picking up a knee injury on international duty back in March. The injury all but ruled him out of the rest of United’s domestic campaign, which would leave him with little time to prove his fitness to Deschamps and co. It’s still hard to believe that Martial is only 25 years of age, which does mean he has plenty left in the tank to go again in the 2022 World Cup and EURO 2024.
Houssem Aouar: A victim of too many talented French midfielders
22-year-old Lyon number eight Houssem Aouar has captured the attention of many of Europe’s leading clubs since breaking onto the scene in 2016. Aouar played a key role in Lyon’s march to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, sparking rumours of a potential move to the EPL and Arsenal last summer. That move failed to transpire but Aouar did not let the speculation affect his game this season, with eight goals and four assists to his name this term. While in most national squads this would make him an integral member of their EURO 2020 side, Aouar is a victim of Deschamps’ embarrassment of riches in creative areas. Although he has missed out this summer, there is no doubt his time will come.
Alexandre Lacazette: The fall guy for the returning Benzema
Arsenal centre forward Alexandre Lacazette must have considered himself a shoo-in for Deschamps’ EURO 2020 squad this summer. 13 goals in 30 EPL games at an average of almost one-in-two is not to be sniffed at. However, he would have failed to account for the shock return of Karim Benzema to the national team fold – six years after his last cap for Les Bleus. In addition, the likes of Olivier Giroud and Thomas Lemar have been preferred to Lacazette, with Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé also vying for starting berths. Lacazette also has the uncertainty of his club future to resolve, given that the 29-year-old is out of contract at the Emirates Stadium next summer.
Eduardo Camavinga: A little too soon for the Rennes starlet
18-year-old midfield powerhouse Eduardo Camavinga has been dubbed one of the hottest young prospects in world football. He became the third-youngest ever player to play for the French senior side last year and the Rennes midfielder is certainly one with a very bright future ahead of him. He’s already featured 65 times for Rennes since 2019 but given the availability of the likes of Pogba, Kante and Sissoko, Deschamps has opted for experience over youth this summer. The Rennes number ten certainly has time on his side, with the ability to play in at least three more European Championships in his career.
Deschamps’ Les Bleus certainly look like a fearsome prospect on paper. Whether they are as dangerous as they were in Russia’s 2018 World Cup remains to be seen. Many of the leading bookmakers have inched England into outright favouritism for EURO 2020 but much of this could be patriotic money from fans hoping for success on home turf.