Adrien Rabiot Didier Deschamps Paul Pogba France GFXGetty/Goal

Pogba, Mbappe and Rabiot family feuds sum up France's chaotic Euro 2020 failure

France’s Euro 2020 adventure was not meant to end with Kylian Mbappe’s modest penalty kick being pushed away by Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

In the stands, meanwhile, the families of Mbappe and Paul Pogba bickered with Veronique Rabiot, the mother of Juventus midfielder Adrien.

It was a scene from youth football. Only the crowd of nearly 23,000 in Bucharest and the cameras fixed on the participants were reminders that this was, in fact, one of the biggest footballing stages in the world game.

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This inglorious scene was matched on the field, where Didier Deschamps’ side had appeared bound for the quarter-finals with just nine minutes left, when they led 3-1.

Instead, the team that won the 2018 World Cup founded on a base of pragmatism and unity, crumpled like a flyweight boxer with a glass chin.

Haris Seferovic, who had bullied Clement Lenglet with embarrassing ease to head the opening goal of the game, found a similarly welcoming France defence as he powered a second, before Mario Gavranovic improbably exposed a huge gap in the French rearguard to level.

While much of the initial post-mortem focused on Mbappe and his ineffectual tournament, the focus quickly shifted to events in the stand, where the tense nature of matters seemed to mimic that of squad relations.

Deschamps admitted that Pogba was left unimpressed by the actions of Rabiot, who criticised him for losing the ball in the lead up to Switzerland’s fateful third.

Paul Pogba France GFXGetty/Goal

“He had to be calmed down a bit,” the coach said of the Manchester United midfielder, who was one of the few France players to come out of the tournament with genuine credit.

By now, though, it was clear that the unity that had been such a strength of France three years previous in Russia had been critically undermined.

Injuries to Lucas Hernandez and Lucas Digne, which forced Rabiot to play an unfamiliar left-back role for periods of the games against Portugal and Switzerland, certainly played a role, but the die had been cast several weeks earlier.

In the 1990s, it was the Netherlands who were renowned for having great national teams, only to implode. Since crashing out of the 2002 World Cup at the group stage as champions, it has been France who have been plagued with this curse.

From the disastrous squad management of Raymond Domenech at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, which led the team to strike at the latter competition, to the inability of Laurent Blanc to get more from his team at Euro 2012, Les Bleus have been blessed with a wealth of talent but an inability to extract it.

Deschamps seemed to have bucked the trend. He had shown single-mindedness, rooted out those capable of sowing discontent and fostered an impressive atmosphere in the squad.

Adil Rami, for example, might not have played a single minute of France’s 2018 World Cup win, but his spirit in the changing room was critical to the cohesion of the players.

At Euro 2020, ‘DD’ strayed somewhat from his values.

Back came Rabiot, a player known as ‘The Duke’ in part due to his aloof attitude, and so too returned Karim Benzema, a player with a court case hanging over him due to his alleged role in a sex-tape scandal with former France winger Mathieu Valbuena.

Didier Deschamps Karim Benzema France GFXGetty/Goal

France might not have blown up as spectacularly as they did in South Africa 11 years ago, but there was a tension evident in their play when they were put under stress.

“Didier Deschamps and his staff got it badly wrong,” Emmanuel Petit, an Arsenal legend and a winner of the 1998 World Cup, wrote for RMC. “At no time did we have the impression that they controlled events, but rather they were subjected to them.

“Man-management has been his great strength, but this is where he got it wrong.

“Before the start of the Euros, we only talked about the front three [Benzema, Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann], and we forgot the strength of the team is the team.

“We’re not used to a France team being like that. From the moment you forget this notion of a team, you are in danger. And in most matches, we forgot this notion and relied too much on individuals.”

France, certainly, produced moments of brilliance. Pogba was to the fore of many of these, but arguably the greatest was Benzema’s first touch that allowed him to score the equaliser against Switzerland.

But while the Real Madrid striker starred individually, there is a sense that he upset the natural balance of the team. Indeed, Olivier Giroud, France’s second-most prolific forward ever, had a fall out with Mbappe before a ball had even been kicked due to the presence of Benzema.

Didier Deschamps France quote GFXGetty/Goal

“He [Benzema] was successful and his attitude was positive for the team,” Bixente Lizarazu, another of France’s World Cup winning generation in 1998, told L’Equipe.

“But his return also redistributed the cards. He pushed players to the bench and took away playing time from others. What we gained through his goals and his talent, also removed influence from others.

“Benzema’s comeback came late and suddenly. The players had to get used to playing together in a very short time and it was not easy.”

There is no single factor that explains France’s Euros collapse, yet Benzema’s return after a near six-year absence only in the June friendlies preceding the competition was something of a portend to the chaos that would ultimately ensue in Bucharest.

It was ill-conceived, sloppy and disjointed. It was entirely atypical of France under Deschamps.

And it was where the adventure deserved to end.