The world champions were beaten in dramatic fashion in the Round of 16 by Switzerland.
Switzerland produced the upset of Euro 2020 by ousting the world champions France in the Round of 16. The Swiss put in a heroic performance and defeated the French 5-4 in the penalty shootout. This was after a see-saw 3-3 draw after extra time in Bucharest.
Switzerland took the early lead through Haris Seferovic and could have wrapped it up in normal time when they won a penalty. Having led 1-0, Hugo Lloris saved a penalty from Ricardo Rodriguez.
It spurred France back into the game and they took the lead through a brace from Karim Benzema. The game seemed to be done and dusted when Paul Pogba scored a delightful curling effort in the 75th minute.
But Switzerland rallied back with Haris Seferovic’s second goal of the night and the equaliser from Mario Gavranovic. In the penalty shootout, Kylian Mbappe missed the crucial penalty as Switzerland dumped France out of the tournament and secured a quarterfinal spot, against Spain.
Despite their exit in penalties, there are a few reasons that could be attributed to Les Bleus’ shock exit from the tournament. We’ve analyzed a few below.
Penalty record in major tournaments
The penalty shootouts have not been kind to France in major tournaments. The nation has been involved in seven penalty shootouts and has lost four of them including against Switzerland in Euro 2020.
France have lost both their previous two penalty shootouts, as well as the one in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final against Italy. Therefore, despite possessing some accurate penalty takers, history and luck has not favoured them on the big occasions.
France possess one of the best defences in the world going into the Euro 2020, led by Raphael Varane. But the French defence has not been at its best in Euro 2020. Despite their attack shining, France’s defence was a key reason for their triumph in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In Euro 2020, France only posted a tackle success rate of 34%. Despite possessing two ball winners in Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante along with the defence have only recovered the 160 times, only the eighth highest number in the tournament.
While it may not be such a bad number, it is not the kind of figure you would associate with a team of France’s riches in quality and capabilities. It led to oppositions finding spaces and giving the French headaches at the back.
Profligacy in shot making
Undoubtedly, the strength of France is their sensational attack. Led by Mbappe and Benzema, Les Bleus came into this tournament with one of the best attacks in the tournament. But the attack was wasteful in their chances this season.
Deschamps’ men attempted the sixth-highest number of shots in the tournament (57). But they had the second highest number of shots off target (30). Their shot accuracy rate was a meagre 29%, not the best account of the quality that France possess in attack.
Their profligate nature in front of goal led to a lack of goals this time, uncharacteristic of their usual quality. Therefore, they became increasingly dependent on Karim Benzema who delivered when it mattered.
Form of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann
Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann crested France’s win in the FIFA World Cup in 2018. They were among the top scorers in the tournament. Therefore, the onus was on the duo to lead the attack despite the return of Benzema.
But, they couldn’t assert themselves in the tournament despite their best efforts. Griezmann involved himself in the overall gameplay but failed to find his goalscoring mojo. He scored only one goal and averaged only 1.75 shots/game. He had only three shots on target in the entire tournament which deceives his overall quality.
Mbappe had a wasteful tournament which might sound harsh. But such are the standards that he has set for himself. Mbappe came into the tournament having finished once again as the top scorer in Ligue 1.
But he took 3.5 shots/game but returned only three shots on target in four matches. Not the return you expect from a man of his capability. In the end, Mbappe only had one assist to show for his contributions in this tournament. He also missed the decisive penalty that allowed Switzerland to win.
France’s exit is shocking but it isn’t the end of the world for them, it is rather a small blip on the radar. It was a night where fortune favoured the brave. Switzerland were more resilient and brave in their approach. They eventually got their reward in the penalty shootout. Rest assured, Les Bleus will once again enter the arena as favourites in the next competition that they feature in given their depth and class.