French team all systems go for Euro 2016

Metz (France) (AFP) – Despite a troubled build-up to Euro 2016 off the field, France showed that they are ready on it by brushing aside Scotland 3-0 in Metz in their last pre-tournament friendly on Saturday. 

A brace from Olivier Giroud and a header from his Arsenal colleague Laurent Koscielny, all in the first half, separated the teams at the Stade Saint-Symphorien, and France could have won by a far greater margin. 

If the country itself has been marred by social strife and miserable weather and weighed down by terrorism fears, Didier Deschamps’ team have had a difficult build-up due to the Karim Benzema affair and injuries to key players in defence. 

However, the reality is that France merit their tag as one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the European Championship. 

“We will be ready. We have been preparing for two years,” said Deschamps, whose side kick off their Euro bid against Romania at the Stade de France on Friday. 

“This was good for confidence. We showed we are capable of scoring goals and we didn’t concede any. We could have scored more in the second half. It is positive but we are not getting carried away and neither are the players. 

“The difficulty will come on Friday against Romania but this was our last preparation game and it is always good to end on a high note.” 

Despite the absence of Real Madrid star Benzema, sidelined due to his implication in the Mathieu Valbuena sextape blackmail scandal, this is a team bristling with attacking potential. 

Against Scotland, France may only have won by three but they could easily have won by double that margin, and they have now netted 13 times in four matches in 2016. 

Les Bleus have also won nine of 10 games going back to September, the sole exception being the 2-0 defeat to England at Wembley, played in a difficult context just days after the November Paris terror attacks.

– Giroud answers critics –

Watching from the stand in Metz, Romania assistant coach Viorel Moldovan can only have admired France’s attacking strength, as the maligned Giroud followed up his goal in last Monday’s 3-2 defeat of Cameroon in Nantes with a brace.

“He already answered (the critics) in Nantes. He scored and scored again, and the other players are behind him,” said Deschamps of a player who has seven goals in France’s last seven outings. 

“When a player is in difficulty they are all with him. He was not so much in difficulty but he was being heckled from outside. I have confidence in him and so do his team-mates.”

The only doubt regarding Deschamps’ line-up appears to be in attack, where Dimitri Payet and Anthony Martial are contesting one place. 

Meanwhile, Leicester City sensation N’Golo Kante looks set to start against Romania after an impressive display replacing the injured Lassana Diarra in the holding midfield role. 

“Everything about his performance was good,” said Deschamps, whose team will also face Albania and Switzerland in Group A. 

“Everything seems simple and easy for him. I have played in that position and sometimes you find yourself catching your breath. 

“He sticks to what he knows and he does that very well. He doesn’t say much, just smiles. He has no anxiety, no fear.” 

Kante himself added: “For my first match in that position it went well. It is not my usual position. I need to learn to get forward less. But overall I am happy with myself.

“Obviously I hope to start against Romania next Friday. Everyone wants to play. In any case, I will be ready.”

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