France v Scotland: Strachan sees French as Euro 2016 favourites

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
Gordon Strachan
Gordon Strachan oversees Scotland training in Malta
International friendly: France v Scotland
Date: Saturday, 4 June Venue: Stade Saint-Symphorien, Metz Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB; live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Gordon Strachan believes his Scotland side will be facing the rightful favourites for Euro 2016 when they take on France in Metz on Saturday evening.

The friendly is Les Bleus' final warm-up before they kick off their home tournament against Romania in Paris six days later.

Strachan accepts the match is as tough a test as his men could have faced.

"I imagine they would be the favourites, I can see why people would say that," he told BBC Scotland.

Interview - Gordon Strachan

"But, I can also see why people don't want to face Italy, with their defence, and England, Germany and Belgium, with these fantastic players they've got now.

"But the French must be the favourites. They've got players in there that can win games.

"It just shows you, it's not all about systems, it's about the players you've got in that system."

'Real brilliance' in French ranks

Strachan has spent more than a week with the squad already, with half that time being in Malta as they prepare for a tilt at the World Cup qualifiers which begin in September, back on the southern European Mediterranean island.

It has also allowed Strachan and his coaching team time to concoct a way of shocking the French on home soil, including watching their 3-2 friendly win over Cameroon.

France players celebrating
A late goal by West Ham's Payet (far right) secured France a 3-2 friendly win over Cameroon

But he accepts the best laid plans can go awry given the standard of player available to French coach Didier Deschamps.

"What you can't be ready for sometimes is pure brilliance, [Dimitri] Payet's free-kicks, individual brilliance like [Paul] Pogba's cross the other day for [Olivier] Giroud's goal was just phenomenal," he said.

"So, we know their shape, but what the players do within that shape, there's some real brilliance at times and that's what we'd like to produce in the years to come, where people know our shape but they can't deal with the players that we've got.

"That's still the secret to being a good side, it's good players.

"I think once you get to a certain level, where that's your style, you can get fitter, you can become more intelligent, but can you start beating people at 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 which you've not done, ever?

"I doubt very much that we can do that but that's up to us as Scottish coaches to produce players that can pass the ball, shield the ball and dribble with the ball.

"You need those three elements, people think it's just the one or another, you need the three to be a top player."

Possession poser for Scots

The France game will be Strachan's final chance to work with the players before the road to Russia 2018 begins in earnest and he says he has relished the end-of-season fortnight spent with the squad.

Matt Ritchie and Marco Parolo
Scotland were beaten by Italy last weekend

"I've enjoyed working with the boys, they're a good bunch of lads," he added. "We didn't enjoy the Italy game [Sunday's 1-0 defeat in Malta], but we've enjoyed the aftermath of sorting that out.

"I think everyone expected us to get beat, but we'd have liked to have put in a far better performance.

"We worry about our passing during the game, possession. Then you look at it as a coach. Did the players, when they won the ball back, have enough support round about them? And we went 'no'.

"The reason being that players were over-conscious of defending, over-conscious of protecting defenders and we looked at that on the video, then we worked it out and we took the players out on Tuesday and had a great time sorting it out.

"We're hoping that because we'll have a better shape when we win the ball back that retention of the ball will be a lot easier and when you have the ball, the other team can't score."


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