France take little solace from reaching semifinals after Euro exit

football10 July 2024 09:36| © Reuters

France were among the favourites for Euro 2024 and while they reached the semifinal stage their exit left many feeling that their tournament had been a failure.

Securing a place in the final four saw coach Didier Deschamps achieve a contract target and he is set to remain at the helm for two more years, but few in the French set-up will emerge with much credit from the tournament in Germany.

Their much-vaunted forward line left with reputations battered and attacking midfielder Antoine Griezmann with questions over his international future.

Even their defence, which had stood firm throughout the tournament, crumbled when needed the most as they allowed Spain to fight back for a 2-1 win in Tuesday’s semifinal in Munich.

Kylian Mbappe was perhaps the biggest disappointment, contributing only a penalty and an assist, but with mitigating circumstances.

A broken nose in France’s opener against Austria threatened a premature end to his participation but after missing the next match he returned with a mask to protect his face.

He said it had inhibited him in subsequent games so when he emerged on Tuesday to play without it supporters would have been hoping a liberated Mbappe would produce an inspired performance of old.

It started well enough with an inch-perfect elevated pass for Randal Kolo Muani’s goal but rapidly descended into a sequence of predictable cut-ins followed by off-target shots.

"The competition was a failure. I wanted to be European champion but we're not,” he told reporters.

“It's football. We have to move on. We're going home, it's simple.

"I have to rest. Afterwards, I'm leaving for a new life," the Real Madrid-bound forward added.

Griezmann set a French record on Tuesday when he came on as a second half substitute to play a 36th match at the Euros and World Cup combined.

Usually contributing in many guises to the French cause he was largely anonymous at this tournament, unable to break out of a slump and certainly not helped by concerns about his form that grew louder and louder.

“I started the tournament badly but I felt better and better, even if I ended up on the bench,” he said.

“I’ll be back ... I tried to give everything, in different positions too, I had to adapt. This is the life of a footballer. Others didn't play a minute, it's not me who's going to complain.”

Among the few positives for the French was the form of goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who has overcome several injury setbacks to emerge as worthy replacement for Hugo Lloris.

Defenders Jules Kounde and William Saliba were outstanding at times, though man for man the whole French side were undone by a far superior Spanish outfit at the Munich Football Arena.

No doubt France will be back again, among the favourites in two years’ time for the World Cup, and if the chastening experience in Germany spurs them to improve then it could be said something good came out of Euro 2024.

However, as they headed home on Wednesday there was little to savour.