It has been 16 years since Les Bleus won this competition, and 32 years since they won it on home soil. After disappointment at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, France must be feeling that their time is now. They do have a point – especially considering that they won the Euro, a World Cup, and a Confederations Cup all on their home turf. And they will certainly want to make it four hosted competitions, four victories on July 10th.
Didier Deschamps’s side have been dutifully preparing for this tournament by taking part in a series of friendlies. There was some impressive and promising results, namely a 2-0 win over Germany last November, but there were some disappointing reversals against England, Belgium, and most shocking, Albania. However, since the start of 2016, Les Bleus have been undefeated, although their inability to keep a clean sheet up until their 3-0 win over Scotland could cause some concern once they get out of their quartet.
Meanwhile, their upcoming opponents Romania may be the underdogs, but they will not go away without a fight. The Tricolori are featuring in their first Euro tournament since the 2008 edition, and secured their spot at Euro 2016 by earning five wins and five draws in qualifying. This marks the first time since featuring at Euro 2000 that Romania managed to get through qualifiers sans suffering a defeat. For Romanian supporters, this is noteworthy as 16 years ago, the team shocked most by making it all the way to the quarter-finals.
Euro tournaments are no strangers to shock results – just think back to the very curious 2004 edition that Greece managed to clinch the trophy! Romania also boasted the meanest defense out of all the teams attempting to secure one of this competition’s 23 spots – with just two conceded. To illustrate, Germany, Spain, and the nation that prides itself on tough defense, Italy, shipped nine, three, and seven respectively.
Anghel Iordanescu’s side may not be as well known as France, but Romania do boast a few players plying their trades in Europe’s biggest leagues. Serie A fans will certainly be familiar with Fiorentina’s shot-stopper Ciprian Tatarusanu, as well as Napoli’s Vlad Chiriches. Plus, they have key man Razvan Rat back in the fold after he missed pretty much most of last season following shoulder surgery, and arrive in France having cruised to a resounding 5-1 win over Georgia.
Romania will certainly face a tough task to stop the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. They also will want to avoid giving up any free-kicks, as West Ham’s Dimitri Payet is rapidly growing in reputation as one of the best in the business. Interestingly, it will be exactly 20 years to the day when France and Romania squared off at Euro 1996 on June 10th – and that finished as a 1-0 result in favor of France.
Even more fascinating is the fact that this will be the third time that France and Romania meet up for their first group stage match. Eight years ago, the result was a scoreless stalemate, and in fact, four out of their last five meetings have finished as draws.
Will France kick off their campaign with a resounding win? Or will Romania finally earn their first competitive victory (as their last win was in an April 1972 friendly) over a familiar foe?