France legend Thierry Henry has backed ‘outstanding’ Kylian Mbappe to help the World Champions repeat the heroics of 2000 by adding the European Championship to their 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The French team sealed qualification to the finals with a 2-1 victory over Moldova at the Stade de France with a game to spare and have their sights set on making history next summer.
Henry, who was part of both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 winning squads, says the current team cannot be underestimated as they look to replicate the achievements of the team 20 years Prior.
Speaking exclusively to Yahoo Sport UK at the announcement of Heineken’s sponsorship on next year’s tournament, the newly-appointed Montreal Impact head coach praised the 20-year-old PSG star as well as the rest of the squad, who he believes are good enough to come out on top once again next summer.
“First and foremost you need to understand the guy is outstanding,” he said of Mbappe. “Very clever, advanced in how he plays the game. Personal attributes, speed, quick feet. He can finish well. He sees the game well. What I like about him is that he is very clever, advanced.
“Having said that, for you to be able to perform, you need to be in a good team. Never underestimate the team he plays in. So if the team does their thing you can have what I call the ‘plus guy’ who can appear in some games. In some games, it’s him, Griezmann in others, Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, that’s how they won it, as a team.
“But then it’s difficult not to mention Mbappe because even more so now, he is the go-to guy for France.”
Forward Mbappe was named Best Young Player in Russia after scoring four times for his country in the competition including the last goal in the 4-2 win over Croatia in the final.
“Can he do it again?” Henry muses. “That depends on the team. If the team brings him places, then he can be Mbappe. I have no doubt about that.”
The unique feat of holding both the Euros and the World Cup has been achieved by both Germany (as West Germany) and Spain as well as France, but Henry believes his compatriots from the class of 2020 are good enough to make it a second ‘double’ for Les Bleus - despite fierce competition from around the continent.
“They were not far from doing it [already],” Henry recalls. “They lost the final in 2016 against Portugal, won in 2018 and now, people will be expecting them to do the same. Having said that, you have a lot of teams who can perform at the Euros. A lot of teams still need to qualify.
“You have the likes of Belgium and Holland doing better… way better by the way. Italy doing better. You have Germany who are going to be around. Portugal are the holders - people are dismissing them but I don't know why. Never do that! Spain are coming back. You have a lot of teams but if you ask me if France can do it, yes they can.”
France survived a minor scare after going behind against Moldova but goals from Rafael Varane and an Olivier Giroud penalty confirmed their place at the tournament.
The World Champions will go in as favourites regardless of whether they seal top spot in their qualifying group or not in their final match against Albania - such is the strength of the current team.
Henry, top scorer for his country in both 1998 and 2000 with three goals in each triumphant tournament, refused to be drawn on which generation of talent could be considered ‘better’, instead insisting victory for France was far more important than making comparisons.
“We did what we had to do, they’re doing what they have to do,” he says. “Nobody will ever know [who is better]. They play in their era, we played in our era. We represent the same country.
“It’s not a case of who is better. We all play for France. We did it in our time, they’re doing it now. What I’m bothered about is them winning.
“Playing well for France is the most important thing.”
UEFA have taken the unique step of not assigning one host nation for the 2020 edition of the tournament, rather matches are set to be played across 12 venues in 12 countries with the final taking place at Wembley.
As an ambassador for Heineken, Henry was at the north London venue to announce the brewer as ‘Official Beer Partner’ for the competition.
“I was part of the team that won the Euros in Belgium and Holland.” he said. “Heineken was a great match because 20 years ago I won the tournament, next year is 2020. It was a match made in heaven.”
Henry scored in the first two group matches of the 2000 competition as France swept aside Denmark 3-0 and edged past Czech Republic 2-1. With qualification secured, they would lose 3-2 to joint hosts Netherlands before beating Spain 2-1 in the last eight.
A hard-fought extra time golden goal 2-1 semi-final win saw Henry bag his third of the tournament, levelling the score at 1-1 after Nuno Gomes had given Portugal the lead.
France, and Henry’s dream looked to have died at the final stage in Rotterdam as Marco Delvecchio’s goal looked to have been enough for Italy. That was until Sylvain Wiltord equalised in stoppage time before David Trezuguet fired home another golden goal winner in extra time.
“It was special,” Henry recalls. “We wanted to show everybody that the World Cup wasn’t just a lucky thing that we couldn’t back up. It wasn’t easy by the way. It’s never easy to win and win again. Especially at that level.
“In 98 we won at home and people were wondering if we could win away [from France]. In 84, we won the Euros at home too.
“To close the debate, we won at home and away. Great memories, but all the games were difficult, we played against some good teams along the way. Golden goals and whatnot but we managed to do it.”
HEINEKEN has announced it will become ‘Official Beer Partner of UEFA EURO 2020™’, and in a separate agreement has extended its UEFA Champions League partnership by another three years, from 2021-24. The new UEFA EURO 2020™ agreement means that Heineken® will be a partner of Europe’s most prestigious club and international football tournaments. Heineken®’s global ambassador Thierry Henry, has previously won both the EURO Championships with France in 2000 and the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona in the 2008/09 season.
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