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germany v france Emmanuel Petit identifies France's star man and it is not the name who grabs the headlines

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France's midfielder N'Golo Kante, France's midfielder Paul Pogba, France's forward Antoine Griezmann warm up. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

France's midfielder N'Golo Kante, France's midfielder Paul Pogba, France's forward Antoine Griezmann warm up. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

France's midfielder N'Golo Kante, France's midfielder Paul Pogba, France's forward Antoine Griezmann warm up. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

THEY may be blessed with some of the most dynamic attacking stars in world football, yet 1998 World Cup winner Emmanuel Petit believes France's most important player will not be in their forward line.

While Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, returning Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema and the Barcelona duo of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé may snatch all the headlines, Petit believes a diminutive machine at the heart of their team will be even more important.

N'Golo Kante highlighted his qualities with a sensational performance for Chelsea in last month's Champions League final, as he went a long way to nullifying Manchester City's attacking stars with a display of defensive midfield play that has sparked a campaign for him to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Speaking at a Paddy Power event, former Arsenal and France midfielder Petit suggests Kante is now getting the respect he deserves for a level of consistency that has seen him establish himself as one of Europe's finest players.

"Forget the forwards as the key players - in this France team it is N'Golo Kante," declares Petit.

"He's the best player in the side and is the heart and soul of this French team. He dictates the tempo for his team-mates and keeps their feet on the ground all the time.

"I'm a huge fan like millions of others in France. Kante doesn't talk to the press much, he doesn't have a big social media presence and he doesn't drive a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. But, every team in the world would want N'Golo Kante.

"Other players love him so much. Look at how Cesar Azpilicueta and Olivier Giroud spoke about him after his performance for Chelsea in the Champions League final.

"People have been saying that sort of thing about him since he won the Premier League with Leicester.

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"I'm surprised that anyone is surprised now about his performances on the pitch, and his character.

"Chelsea won the Champions League with their attacking players not at their best. They changed many of their strikers and wingers last summer and, while some of them have had a decent season, they can do so much more.

"What carried Chelsea to the Champions League was the defensive side of their game and while they were strong in many areas, their biggest strength was Kante."

There will be no room for slow starters as France lock horns with Germany in the stand-out fixture of the opening round of Group F games in Munich on Tuesday, yet Petit believes that can be an advantage.

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"It's better for France that they have a difficult group at the Euros with Portugal, Germany and Hungary, because every time we've had an average group at a big tournament we tend to get sloppy," he added.

"The fact that we play some very big teams here - contenders to win the tournament - is the best preparation for us if we are to win the competition.

"Mentally, we have to get straight into competitive mode from the first kick-off. We don't have the luxury to drop points at the beginning. We have to be ready.

"That's good for the players and the French fans too, as you need to be under pressure from the get-go if you want to perform at the highest level."

If expectations are lofty around France, the opposite is true for Germany, as coach Joachim Low aims to end his enduring reign as national team boss on a high.

The return of the highly experienced duo of Mats Hummels and Thomas Muller to the Germany squad for the Euros highlighted Low's desperation to end on a high, with the exclusion of those two a high profile move he instigated after their 2018 World Cup finals calamity.

There is no doubt that the in-form Muller will add to their attacking options, but a Germany side that lost 6-0 to Spain in November and then lost to North Macedonia on home soil in a World Cup qualifier in March are heading into this tournament with diluted hopes.

Kai Havertz arrives at the Euros in bouyant mood after his Champions League final winner for Chelsea, but a flying start is needed to convice sceptical German fans that their team can repeat their Euro 96 final win at Wembley next month.

Emmanuel Petit will be writing for Paddy Power during the Euro 2020 finals.

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