PARIS: Underdogs or potential finalists? Dark horses or dead certs? Few teams competing at Euro 2012 are shrouded in as much uncertainty as Laurent Blanc’s France.
Les Bleus are unbeaten in 18 games but are only ranked 16th in the world, having fallen as low as 27th in September 2010.
They are touted as contenders for the top prize in Poland and Ukraine, but were 12 minutes from the play-offs before a Samir Nasri penalty in their last qualifier at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina secured their place at the tournament.
“There will be a favourite — England — and behind them, the three teams all have realistic hopes of qualifying,” said Blanc after France were drawn alongside England, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine in Group D.
The reason for France’s circumspection is the dark shadow cast by the events of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which continues to linger over the squad.
Results may be pursuing an upward curve, but there is still some way to go before the wounds heal completely and Blanc has repeatedly warned against the dangers of expectation. “The problem is that people have very short memories,” he said in February. “After the trauma of the 2010 World Cup, everyone said that we had to rediscover some humility.”