A semi-final seems the bare minimum for a side kicking on despite retirements – but the backline is yet to be settled

Olivier Giroud, France’s all-time record goalscorer, celebrates his winner in March’s friendly against Chile in Marseille. Photograph: Catherine Steenkeste/Getty

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


France approach most major tournaments as one of the favourites these days – and they have their recent success to blame for that. While this will be Les Bleus’ first tournament for a long time without Raphaël Varane and Hugo Lloris, there is plenty of continuity within this side; the midfield and attack will probably be a copy-paste of the 2022 World Cup side that reached the final in Qatar. With the shock return of N’Golo Kanté, now plying his trade in Saudi Arabia, this is a France side that has a familiar feel and one with the right mix of youth and experience.

They qualified serenely, winning all matches bar the final game against Greece, when an experimental side was fielded. With only three goals conceded in the campaign, including two in that finale, it is clear France will be difficult to break down, even if there are question marks surrounding the individuals that will constitute Didier Deschamps’ backline.

Since Varane’s international retirement, the manager has failed to settle on a centre-back partnership. The plentiful choice hardly makes his decision any easier while the biggest question mark in this side revolves around the right-back position. Deschamps has – at times – publicly bemoaned a perceived lack of options there and has called on the governing body to help encourage strength in this area. Jonathan Clauss is in the squad, unlike 2022, but a more defensive option à la Jules Koundé is likely to be favoured.

An uncharacteristically shaky international break in March raised a few questions but, once they kick into tournament mode, France are imperious. All signs suggest they will have no problem being so again and a run to the semi-final will be seen as the bare minimum.