France vs Switzerland: Why N’Golo Kante, not Kylian Mbappe or Karim Benzema, is key to Euros success

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 (Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

Before Euro 2020 began, all the talk around France was focused on their fearsome forward line.

That was hardly surprising given head coach Didier Deschamps had elected to bring Karim Benzema in from the cold to deploy him alongside Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.

But now, as France prepare for the knockout stages and a clash with Switzerland in the last 16 tonight, it is highly likely the key to their success lies away from their attack and instead in the heart of midfield.

Off the pitch N’Golo Kante may be understated, but on it he is a force to be reckoned with and it is telling that whoever he has played for over the past few years has found themselves winning silverware.

Chelsea can attest to that and, after signing Kante from Leicester in 2016 (who he had just helped lift the Premier League), the Blues have won all the major honours bar the League Cup.

Kante inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory just a few weeks ago and will now be hoping for more European success with France, acting as the glue in a team blessed with an abundance of attacking talent.

“For the whole squad, when we have training sessions, if they have to choose a player, N’Golo is always one of the first chosen,” says Deschamps. “You can be as humble as you want, if you don’t have the quality on the pitch you don’t get that reputation.”

Kante’s work has helped Paul Pogba flourish and it is no surprise his best performances have come for France and not Manchester United.

“He’s got 15 lungs,” says Pogba. “Football is much easier when you play with someone like that.”

Pogba’s feelings are shared by the whole France squad, who are well aware of the role Kante plays.

“He is very shy,” says Raphael Varane. “But on the pitch he is so generous, he puts in that extra effort in order to win the ball back.”

Switzerland face a difficult task against France - particularly if Kante is on song - as they look to beat them at a major tournament for the first time in their history, but the squad have belief.

“We analysed France today, we know where their weaknesses are and what these are,” said Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka.

“It is a big match for us, for the whole of Switzerland. It’s a big match for us all and we can write history.”

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