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France Is the Deepest Team at Euro 2016, but Does That Even Matter?

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In the Channel 33 Euro 2016 preview podcast, Chris Ryan, Ryan O’Hanlon, and Kevin Clark collectively selected their ultimate starting 11, looked at some possible breakout players, and picked their favorites to win it all. In the transcribed portion below, they discuss France’s title hopes and whether their depth is more of an asset or a luxury. To listen to the whole episode, click here. And be sure to check out the rest of our Euro 2016 preview coverage.

This transcript has been lightly condensed and edited.

Chris Ryan: This is as good a time as any to talk about France, because … you mentioned that in England, they don’t have as high hopes for the team as other countries seem to think they have. And I think that here, I mean, I don’t know, it’s a small sample size, but we all kind of think this is France’s tournament to lose, right?

Kevin Clark: Sure.

C.R.: I think Germany and Spain are coming not off toward the end of cycles, but it’s hard to maintain a competitive edge across multiple tournaments like this. Kevin, what do you think of France’s chances?

K.C.: So Ryan [O’Hanlon] and I were speaking the other day. I think that France is really talented, and I think they’re also going to get to the semifinals and lose, probably to Germany. My take on France: I think about three or four months ago, we started looking at the talent. We saw guys like [N’Golo] Kanté emerge during the club season. We were saying, "Oh my god, look how stacked they are." You could take a B-squad of France players and probably make the tournament and do really well.

C.R.: They had the luxury of excluding [Karim] Benzema for justifiably moral reasons.

K.C.: Exactly.

Ryan O’Hanlon: Franck Ribéry.

K.C.: But that sort of depth, being able to go 19 or 20 guys, is not how you win a trophy like this. You win with your top 12 or 13 guys. I know there’s going to be suspensions, there’s going to be some injuries, but you really win by having a one-through-11 great team. France does not necessarily have that. They have incredible depth in midfield, good attackers, but they still have a lot of questions at the back. It is not a vintage France defense, and so when you look at maybe the top 13 guys, which, again, is what I think you win a trophy with, it’s just not there as much as it is there one-through-20, which is a little bit more of just a cool fact, the fact that they can just bring five new guys and still be really —

C.R.: Yeah, I mean, obviously, the depth doesn’t really help when it’s nut-cutting time. But I think that for me, even though it was a friendly, the game against Cameroon was so exciting because you don’t ever see a tournament team who’s like, "Yeah, let’s just see if we can win every game 3–2, or let’s see if we can win 4–2."

K.C.: Yeah.

C.R.: I think they have two of the most exciting players in Europe because I’m actually super, super into Anthony Martial, Manchester United forward.

K.C.: And if [Dimitri] Payet can get on the field, I mean, he’s amazing.

C.R.: I know that their defense has been a little bit shaky, but I kind of feel like if they don’t defeat themselves, I think they’re going to win it.

R.O.: Yeah, with these things it’s always, you sort of carry over your stereotypes from the team in the last tournament. For France, we just think of a team that’s going to self-destruct, but these are all totally new players, and I feel like with international soccer — someone was saying this the other day — so much of it is being able to get your best players on the field at the same time in positions roughly approximating where they’re their best at, and I think France does that. Defensively, I think if we looked at it closer, basically no one has a good defense.

K.C.: That’s true.

R.O.: Maybe Italy. But Italy, you know, that’s Italy. And France is at home, which is a huge deal in international soccer.

C.R.: Well, that’s the thing, is that France’s home-field advantage could quickly turn on them if France’s fans start to be disappointed by them.

K.C.: Giroud, Olivier Giroud, is already being booed for some reason.

C.R.: Well, he had a standing ovation, too. I think it’s really mixed messages. He got a standing ovation when he was pulled off at Cameroon, wasn’t he?

R.O.: Possibly.

C.R.: I watched it at an airport. I can’t honestly say that I know.

R.O.: He’s the type of guy to get a standing ovation and be booed in the same game.

K.C.: He was questioning why he was booed.

C.R.: Oh, OK. Was it [Arsène] Wenger who was booing him? [Laughing.] Or was it [Jamie] Vardy?

K.C.: It was Vardy, yeah.

C.R.: That was incredible. Olivier Giroud being like, "We can’t wait to welcome Jamie Vardy with open arms." Like, dog.

R.O.: [Laughing.] I can’t wait to slide-tackle him from behind in practice.

C.R.: [Laughing.] I can’t wait until you play in the Carling Cup.