This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2020 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between some of the best media organizations from the 24 qualifying countries. theguardian.com offers daily previews from two countries in the run-up to the tournament, which starts on June 11th.

France’s record (S10 U2 U1) since qualifying for the European Championship speaks for itself, especially since the only defeat was scored in a friendly against Finland, in which Didier Deschamps played his second string. The quality of the game and the level of entertainment were questionable, but when it comes to key games, the world champions win with their typical collective self-confidence, clinical finish and individual flair.

After a 10-month hiatus due to the pandemic, Deschamps used the Nations League games last fall to try three different systems – 3-4-1-2, 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and 4-4-2 – and around you consider some younger players. “I can’t think of anything worse than a team that thwarts and can’t assess itself again,” he said. “You also have to surprise your players and occasionally disrupt their routine.”

In November, Deschamps returned to his favorite 4-4-2, winning 1-0 in Portugal in France’s most successful performance in the past three years. It seemed clear that Plan A for the euro would look pretty much the same as it was in Russia.

The only small changes are that Samuel Umtiti and Blaise Matuidi, who now plays in MLS, have made way for Presnel Kimpembe and Adrien Rabiot, the latter after his refusal to be on the standby list for Russia 2018 then came the sudden, unbelievable appointment of Karim Benzema, since October 2015 from the national team for his alleged involvement in a sex tape extortion case, which he denies.

Benzema’s involvement could change all the dynamic, but it wasn’t a knee-jerk call, as Deschamps explained when he announced his 26th. “We met some time ago and had a long conversation,” he said. “I thought about it for a long time and, as always, decided what was best for the team. We won without Karim, but he is at his peak and another player too, we know each other well and he can improve this team. I just have to find a new and correct balance, but I have no doubts about it and am fortunate to have intelligent players. “

Otherwise, France’s strengths remain the same: a solid defensive unit protected by N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba, effective transitions and an incredible attack with a lot of speed, experience and skill. The key questions are what impact Benzema’s return will have on and off the pitch and how fresh and fit the most influential players (Lloris, Varane, Kanté, Griezmann, Mbappé and Benzema) will be after such a bizarre and demanding season.

The trainer

After Deschamps led Monaco to a Champions League final (2004), brought Juventus back to Serie A (2007) and won the title with Marseille (2010), Deschamps took over the reins for France in 2012 and continued what he is known for : Win. With a contract that will run until the end of the next World Cup, he is already the longest-serving manager in France and can boast an impressive record of P111 W73 D20 L18. Living in Èze, a village on the French Riviera near Monaco, he remains calm and focused on football, aside from some charitable activities, including a donation to Opération Pièces Jaunes, which helps children in need of long-term hospital care need.

Didier Deschamps is now France’s longest-serving manager of all time. Photo: Franck Fife / Reuters

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France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex recently needed someone to push the Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Who did he turn to? Kylian Mbappé, of course. Bright, charismatic and personable, he is a role model for all young people and from Bondy, one of the poorest Parisian suburbs, a symbol of success for the underprivileged. With more than 50 million followers on Instagram and six million on Twitter, no other French player is more present on social media.

I’m happy about a year late

Due to a thigh operation, Ousmane Dembélé only played nine games for Barcelona last season and did not return to the field until September 2020. When France won the World Cup they have now fully recovered and their amazing speed and one-on-one skills could have a huge impact. “He’s back in top form and more mature, he has a lot to offer and I like his versatility,” says Deschamps.

Expected line-up

France’s likely line-up

What the fans are singing

When it comes to football songs, France isn’t the most creative country. In fact, no one can remember songs about the national team since Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive was covered by the Hermes House Band, a Dutch group, in 1998. The tune is forever associated with their first World Cup win that year and France’s victory in major trophies, so it might still serve the purpose.

What the fans are saying

“Here is Dédé’s cat again!” – There goes Dédé [Deschamps’ nickname] ride his luck again!

“No matter what, Giroud will come in and score the decisive goal.” – Either way, Giroud will eventually come in and score the winning goal.

“As long as Kanté can run, don’t worry.” – As long as Kanté can run, that’s no problem.

Pandemic hero / villain

Paul Pogba, in cooperation with Unicef ​​U, collected 60,000 euros and set up a birthday fundraiser in March 2020 to “fight this war against Covid-19”. The Manchester United midfielder said he would double the amount if he hit the € 30,000 goal. Kylian Mbappé, meanwhile, donated an undisclosed “substantial” amount to a charity that supports the most vulnerable. “Concerned about the consequences of the serious health crisis that is afflicting our country, but also about all the consequences it can have for the most vulnerable, Kylian Mbappé has just made a very large donation to support the work of the Abbé Pierre Foundation,” the charity said in a statement.

Patrick Urbini writes for L’Équipe.

Follow him on Twitter @purbini.

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