PARIS: Five things about France ahead of the European Championship that they will host starting in Group A with Albania, Romania and Switzerland.
Success as hosts
France have an excellent record as hosts of major tournaments. They won the 1984 European Championship as the home nation, Michel Platini scoring a remarkable nine times in five games including in the final as Les Bleus beat Spain 2-0. They won the World Cup as hosts in 1998, beating Brazil 3-0 in the final at the Stade de France. They also hosted the 1938 World Cup, although on that occasion they bowed out in the quarter-finals, losing 3-1 to eventual winners Italy.
Winners in 2000
On the back of their 1998 World Cup triumph, France won the European Championship for the seecond time in 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands. Under Roger Lemerre, and with Zinedine Zidane at his brilliant best, Les Bleus beat Italy 2-1 in the final in Rotterdam thanks to a golden goal in extra time by David Trezeguet. Germany and Spain are the only other coutries to have won the continental title more than once. However, since that triumph in 2000, France have not won a single knockout round match at a European Championship.
France’s build-up to the Euro finals has been overshadowed by the decision to drop star striker Karim Benzema. The Real Madrid striker is the highest-scoring currently active French international with 27 goals from 81 appearances. However, he was informed by the French Football Federation on April 13 that he would not be selected as he is under investigation over an attempt to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex-tape. Benzema, 28, has been accused of complicity in the attempt.
Uproar has never been far from the French camp at recent major tournaments. Their disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa was overshadowed by striker Nicolas Anelka’s dismissal from the squad following a row with coach Raymond Domenech and the squad’s subsequent boycott of training at their base in Knysna. Still with the squad now, Patrice Evra was captain of that French team and was later one of several players banned by the national federation for his involvement in the affair. At Euro 2012, Samir Nasri became involved in a spat with a journalist and was later handed a three-match ban. Jeremy Menez was also banned for one game following a confrontation with the referee and with teammate Hugo Lloris during the same competition.
Security has been a common theme in the build-up to the competition after the November 13 attacks on Paris, including the Stade de France during Les Bleus’ 2-0 friendly win against Germany. One bystander was killed when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the ground while the match went on. A total of 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured in attacks around the French capital that night. One victim was a cousin of Marseille and France midfielder Lassana Diarra while the sister of striker Antoine Griezmann escaped alive after being caught up in a deadly siege on the Bataclan concert venue that night.