Excuses, Excuses: France’s Shock Exit from Euro 2020 Explained
Stanley Murphy-Johns expands on a recent article by The Athletic detailing the causes that led to France’s unexpected exit from Euro 2020.
Considering the quality of football France have shown themselves capable of over the past few years, it’s probably an understatement to suggest that Euro 2020 did not quite go as they planned.
Since they crashed out against Switzerland in the Round of 16, many theories and inside scoops have been levelled by media outlets attempting to explain what went wrong for the French. This article will delve into some of the excuses underlined in a report by The Athletic and study how France played across their four games.
There were moments of brilliance. France managed to top the ‘group of death’ which had consisted of Germany, Portugal and Hungary, drawing two and winning one. It was not spectacular, but it was what they needed to do; they were to play Switzerland in the Round of 16 (a supposedly foregone conclusion).
The Athletic article suggests that before the group stage was complete, there was already a host of drama surrounding the French camp. Allegedly the players ‘hated the hotel’ they stayed at in the centre of Budapest, having had limited opportunity to spend time with each other outside of training. The article explains that Paul Pogba told French manager Didier Deschamps that the players wanted to leave the hotel as soon as possible.
The fact is, this is simply ridiculous, not the story but the concept that this should be an excuse for not performing to the best of your ability. The very idea that staying in a fancy hotel that is perhaps not fancy enough is some great hardship is utterly ludicrous. However, for temperamental millionaires, I’m sure it appeared to them as a big deal, and therefore almost certainly did affect their performance.
A far more understandable reason for the French level of play to be affected would have been tension within the squad. Karim Benzema had been out of the French side for six years following a significant controversy in 2015 before being brought back for this tournament which elicited a divided response. Not to mention the conflict stirred by Giroud with fellow teammate Mbappé, telling the press after a friendly against Bulgaria that Mbappé didn’t seek him out enough.
Furthermore, The Athletic reported that Adrien Rabiot’s mother and agent was very vocal in blaming Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé for the loss against Switzerland. Comments such as these from figures close to the camp like Veronique Rabiot depict quite a hostile environment. Similar to the hotel complaints, these reports alone should not have been enough to knock France off course; however, it begins to make more sense when viewed as a culmination of factors.
This piece is not an attempt to slate the French team but rather to understand the issues within their camp that led to their shock exit. That said, a team boasting a midfield of Kante and Pogba, with Mbappé, Griezmann and Benzema in front, should not falter in the Round of 16.
I likened France (in this tournament) to the English teams I grew up watching. For most of the 2000s, England boasted their ‘Golden Generation’ – a team with such a wealth of talent it seemed impossible that we wouldn’t be successful. I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you… we weren’t. I would argue that the French exhibited many of the same signs as those English teams did during the years of the ‘Golden Generation’. Not only the tensions in camp, but on the pitch; they would fall quiet for large sections of games, almost waiting to win, but then had moments where they played fantastic football and looked unbeatable.
Perhaps it is too harsh on the French to compare them to England’s golden generation, but if they were to repeat their mistakes in the World Cup next year, I think that may strengthen their connection.