CHRISTIAN KAREMBEU won the World Cup and European Championship as a player with France so he speaks with some authority when he says that the current crop can emulate the teams that he played in by replicating the achievement.

The current world champions have been drawn in a EURO 2020 group containing holders Portugal and the joint most-successful side in tournament history, Germany, with one team to be decided in the play-offs which commence on March 26.

Finding safe passage out of Group F is a significant conundrum but Karembeu believes France will have the perfect man in charge to provide a solution to it.

“The answer is simple,” says Karembeu, who won 53 caps for his country in an international career spanning a decade. “Didier Deschamps did the double, so he’s going to try to get across to his young players what he managed to achieve.”


Deschamps and Karembeu were part of one of the most-gifted sides of their – or any other – generation, boasting a Ballon d'Or winner Zinédine Zidane, a runner-up in Thierry Henry and a host of players who would pick player of the year awards in the respective leagues they played in.

In Karembeu's first European Championship, he travelled to England where a young France side emerged from a strong group before exiting in the semi-finals.

“We finished top of our group, which featured Romania, Spain and Bulgaria, and then unfortunately bowed out at the semi-final stage in a penalty shootout,” he recalls. “However, we enjoyed a good campaign and it helped us to form a good team that we were subsequently able to build on in 1998 and 2000.

“There were some real talents in that side, [Zinédine] Zidane, who was making his debut in an international tournament, [Bixente] Lizarazu, [Lillian] Thuram, they were the young players that were coming through in the French side.”

The experience of that finals and the introduction of young players at that stage set France up for their World Cup win on home soil two years later before they completed the double with a come-from-behind victory in the final against Italy at EURO 2000.

“In 1998, things obviously changed with Thierry Henry and [David] Trezeguet. It was a France team that was built based on Jacquet’s ideas that went back to ‘96 and we then worked hard on things and became a very good [or even] an excellent side and went on to prove to world football what we all know today i.e. that we became World Cup and EURO winners.”


For Karembeu, now 49, the parallels with today's team are obvious, except possibly now his compatriots are even stronger than in his day. France enter EURO 2020 with a young squad that has been together since their defeat by Portugal in the final of EURO 2016. They have grown together, experienced highs and lows and it is, crucially, a group of players packed with talent.

“We know it’s a quality squad, with [Kylian] Mbappé, [Paul] Pogba and so many others,” adds Karembeu. “They can do it and go very far once again because they’re so young. They can be part of many generations of players and may even play in four or five World Cups.”