Saturday, July 24, 2021

France were pre-tournament favourites. Nothing has changed

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Karim Benzema has returned, but Didier Deschamps has not tinkered with the formula that made France world champions

The French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil once said: “Beauty always promises, but never gives anything.” While Weil’s thinking may seem out of place in the context of Euro 2020, her words sum up how football tournaments are won: with substance over style. France illustrated as much in their impressive 1-0 win over Germany in Munich on Tuesday night.

It was the most anticipated match of the group stage, pitting the last two world champions against each other, and both sides came into the tournament surrounded by drama. Joachim Löw had brought Mats Hummels and Thomas Müller back into his side, a move spurred on by their galling exit at the group stage of the World Cup in Russia three years ago. Didier Deschamps, for his part, had recalled Karim Benzema from the international wilderness. With Benzema in sparkling form for Real Madrid, the France manager decided that legal matters could be ignored for a month.

While we had a good idea . . .

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