France have been unable to come up with a stellar performance in order to win the coveted trophy once again © Getty Images
France have been unable to come up with a stellar performance in order to win the coveted trophy once again © Getty Images

Hosts and former champions France take on Romania of Group A, in the opening game of the UEFA Euro 2016 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Friday. France, who last won the prestigious European tournament back in 2000, have been unable to come up with a stellar performance in order to win the coveted trophy once again, i.e. for the third time. However, they would be aiming to repeat the heroics this time, especially as the hosts, as they did in 1984. Romania, on the other hand, are yet to win the trophy, and being one of the underdogs in the tournament makes things difficult for them. However, they could turn things around this time with a solid good performance. Euro 2016 France team Preview: Les Bleus look to be second time lucky at home

France would be missing the services of their star striker Karim Benzema, who has been ruled out of the tournament, as he was not selected by coach Didier Deschamps owing to his ongoing sex tape scandal. Benzema claimed coach Didier Deschamps had “bowed to pressure from a racist part of France.” Deschamps’ defensive options are severely depleted as Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu also had to withdraw from the squad, while Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho wasn’t included as he was serving a provisional ban from UEFA for doping, reports AFP.

Yet, expectations are still high that a team boasting the precocious young talents of the likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Antoine Griezmann can repeat the feats of the French sides of 1998 and 1984 in winning the World Cup and Euros respectively on home soil, added AFP.

“Everything that has happened to us since the squad was announced on May 12, honestly, even in my worst nightmares I don’t think I could have imagined it,” Deschamps told sports daily L’Equipe on Wednesday. “We have the chance to play at home, there will be pressure, but it will be positive. We have the obligation to have a good tournament and the objective is to win it,” said goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

“There will be a different pressure, but we are ready. We are looking forward to it. The young players these days play without thinking, they don’t have any fear and play like they do with their clubs,” added Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna.

While France’s forward line will be blessed with pace and youth, there will be plenty of experience at the back with all of the expected back four of Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Adil Rami and Patrick Evra in their thirties. Romania’s hopes of springing a huge surprise will be based around a solid defence as they reached a first major tournament in eight years with the best defensive record in qualifying, reports AFP. “The pressure on France is greater. If we manage to get a draw it would be extraordinary, and if we win it would be fantastic,” said Romania assistant coach Viorel Moldovan.

Current form:

France: WWWWLWWWWW

Romania: WLDDWDWDDD

Possible starting XI

France: Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Laurent Koscielny, Patrice Évra; Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Blaise Matuidi; Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Dimitri Payet.

Romania: Ciprian Tătăruşanu; Cristian Săpunaru, Vlad Chiricheş, Dragoș Grigore, Răzvan Raţ; Ovidiu Hoban, Mihai Pintilii; Adrian Popa, Nicolae Stanciu, Bogdan Stancu; Claudiu Keșerü.

Prediction: France likely to win with a margin of 3-0 or 2-1.

Squads:

France: Benoît Costil, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Lucas Digne, Patrice Evra, Christophe Jallet , Laurent Koscielny, Eliaquim Mangala, Samuel Umtiti, Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Yohan Cabaye, Morgan Schneiderlin, N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, Moussa Sissoko, Kingsley Coman, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet.

Romania: Costel Pantilimo, Alexandru Matel, Razvan Rat, Cosmin Moti, Ovidiu Hoban, Vlad Chiriches (c), Alexandru Chipciu, Mihai Pintilii, Denis Alibec, Nicolae Stanciu, Gabriel Torje, Ciprian Tatarusanu, Claudiu Keseru, Florin Andone, Valerica Gaman, Steliano Filip, Lucian Sanmartean, Andrei Prepelita, Bogdan Stancu, Adrian Popa, Dragos Grigore, Cristian Sapunaru, Silviu Lung Jr.

Time: 12.30am IST

(Ayush Gupta is a reporter at CricketCountry. A passionate supporter of Manchester United, he idolises Roger Federer and is also a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) maniac. He can be followed on Twitter @Ayush24x7)