Opinion: Key players for France in the later stages of Euro 2016

As France progress through the tournament, the ‘star’ players will show themselves on the biggest stage of them all, in their home country.

Opinion: Key players for France in the later stages of Euro 2016
France, together, united. (Photo: Getty Images)

France face the unlikely opponents of the Republic of Ireland on Sunday, and by no means will this be an easy game for the home side. Ireland showed passion and drive against Italy, which ultimately saw them score the only goal of the game on the 84th minute.

So far, Ireland have conceded four times in three matches, while keeping a clean sheet against group champions Italy. This could pave the way for some of the best attackers in the French squad to strategically pick apart the Ireland defence.

Poster boys of the French national team

In the three games France have played so far, there is no debate that West Ham man, Dimitri Payet has been the star man so far. With no less than two goals in his first three games and an 80% pass completion rate, Payet is looking to be the crucial player who helps France on their road to the final. Late goals have been a key feature in this tournament but no goals have come any later than Payet’s 96th minute goal against Albania to help seal a 2-0 victory for his team.

No personalities come as big as Paul Pogba in the French dressing room. At the age of only 23, Pogba has already won the Serie A four times, all consecutively, the Coppa Italia twice and last but not least the Fifa U-20 World Cup in 2013. This wealth of awards has propelled Pogba into the starlight, both domestically and internationally. 

The incredibly talented Pogba has not been shy in the eccentricity of his hairstyles (Source: The Express)
The incredibly talented Pogba has not been shy in the eccentricity of his hairstyles (Source: The Express)

With Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kanté in the French midfield, it is hard for Pogba to get the right balance of defence and attack as half of his job is already being done for him, but Pogba found a way around this, playing in a more attacking role against Albania and was a crucial factor in the win which saw France top the group.

Alongside Pogba in the elite category of French footballers is Antoine Griezmann. The quick, tricky and agile forward has already scored over 75 goals in Spain’s top league, the Liga BBVA. 

Griezmann is well trained for this challenge as he has played for every French national team from the age of 18 upwards. With only one goal in the tournament so far, everyone knows and hopes Griezmann has more to offer. Didier Deschamps decided to not start the 25 year old in the game against Albania, which proved to be a great decision as Griezmann came of the bench in the 68th minute only to score the winner in the 90th. 

While playing with Atletico Madrid, Griezmann has already been to two Champions League finals, but his team have fallen short at both hurdles. In the most recent final, Griezmann smashed the bar from a penalty, but he showed composure and kept his head held high. Griezmann was crucial in the build up to the only Atletico Madrid goal and scored the first Atletico penalty in the penalty shoot out against rivals Real Madrid.

Unsung heroes 

N'Golo Kanté has played two games for the French national team so far in the tournament, being left out for the game against Switzerland. Just like his domestic campaign, Kanté has been crucial to the midfield balance of the team. No player in world football is better than the Leicester City midfielder at hunting down and retrieving possession for his team from the opposition. 

Throughout any game Kanté plays, he will always work for his manger, fans and most importantly team mates. This hard work and determination would make Kanté a valuable asset in any team in world football. 

As Kanté plays nearer to the French defence rather than attack, he normally goes unnoticed throughout many games but this does not make him any less important. Kanté provides players like Adil Rami and Laurent Koscielny with reassurance that even if they make a mistake, he will already be chasing the opposition player and seeking the ball to get it away from any dangerous positions.

Although Olivier Giroud scored the opening goal of the 2016 Euro campaign, many pundits and fans alike believe he does not get the credit he deserves. The Arsenal striker may ‘go missing’ throughout games but his movement, aerial threat and outstanding strength makes him a nightmare for any defence in world football. 

Giroud may not be directly involved in a goal but his movement allows for space to be created multiple times in any game. The 29 year old striker has scored 18 goals for France but without a doubt, he will add to that tally before the end of the Euro 2016 campaign.

Not one player, but a whole team

Although France have many charismatic characters among the ranks in their squad, they have a camaraderie and real passion for the shirt they wear, game in, game out. This has not been more present than when Dimitri Payet started shedding tears of jubilation when he was substituted off in the game against Romania, symbolising what it means for not only him but the whole team to don the blue, white and red of France