When there is a great deal of expectancy for a team to achieve success, they can often wilt in the face of that.
As hosts and one of the favourites to win Euro 2016, France have been under intense pressure since the start of the tournament to perform to the very best of their ability.
Steadily improving throughout Euro 2016
Despite not doing so during the group phase, when they laboured to victories over Romania and Albania respectively, before playing out an uninspiring goalless draw with Switzerland, Les Bleus have produced three vastly improved displays in the knock-out stages to reach the final.
The first of those was in the last 16, as France recovered from being a goal down at half time to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1. Gleaning great confidence from the manner of that victory, Didier Deschamps’ side produced a brilliant quarter final performance to emphatically beat Iceland 5-2.
Nevertheless in conceding two goals against the Icelandic’s, France showed signs of defensive frailty and weakness, which Deschamps and captain Hugo Lloris identified the need to eliminate in their semi-final against Germany.
Whilst successfully doing that and continuing to play an attractive brand of attacking football, France deservedly beat the World Champions 2-0 to put them on the verge of winning a first European Championship since 2000.
France’s Euro 2000 triumph
The finals that year were hosted jointly by Belgium and Holland, with France managed by Roger Lemerre, playing their first two group games in Bruges. They won both of those against Denmark and the Czech Republic, 3-0 and 2-1 respectively, before a much changed French team lost their final group game 3-2 to Holland in Amsterdam.
Subsequently that defeat meant France finished second in their group behind the Dutch and progressed to a quarter final against Spain. Les Bleus won that game 2-1 with Youri Djorkaeff and Zinedine Zidane scoring two brilliant goals to set-up a semi-final with Portugal. Despite falling behind to a Nuno Gomes strike, France came back to win 2-1 after extra time, with Zidane scoring a golden goal from the penalty spot to send his country through to the final, where they would beat Italy by the same score line under similar circumstances.
Specifically after Marco Delvecchio put the Azzuri ahead early in the second half, Italy seemed on course to win their first European Championship since 1968. However an inspired double substitution by Lemerre turned the final in favour of the French. Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet were introduced for Christophe Dugarry & Djorkaeff respectively, with both substitutes scoring to help France win 2-1. Wiltord struck in the 90th minute to force the final to extra time, towards the end of the first half of which, Trezeguet scored a brilliant golden goal.
Deschamps close to winning unprecedented double
Playing a prominent role in France’s Euro 2000 success was current manager Didier Deschamps, who is now on the verge of becoming the first person to win the European Championship as both a player and manager.
Standing in the 47-year-old manager’s way of doing so are Portugal, who despite not possessing the same quality and talent as Les Bleus, represent strong final opponents for Les Bleus nevertheless.