“All for one and one for all" - the France team has not yet fully applied the motto of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers but she is getting closer and closer.
Since 2006, and the famous "we live together, together with death" band of Zinedine Zidane, France has not seen a blue group so united and happy to co-exist together, ready to sacrifice for each other.
For years, major tournaments have been marked by tensions and dissension within the squad or at least between the coaching staff and the players.
At the 2006 World Cup, Raymond Domenech and his captain Zidane did not speak. There was no relationship between them, no exchanges, no communication, no tactical discussion, nothing. The leader was Zidane and it was he who commanded the blue ship. Somehow they reached the final, but lost in the shootout with Italy.
|FRANCE 2-0 UKRAINE REVIEW
|Laurent Blanc's side top Group D after a comfortable victory over the co-hosts
In 2008, we returned to more common problems: the clash of generations. On the one hand, there were older players on the decline (including Lilian Thuram, Claude Makelele and Willy Sagnol) and on the other there were young players coming through (Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri). And of course, they clashed, several times.
The most revealing anecdote is of course the incident on the bus, when Nasri sat in a place "reserved" for Thierry Henry. Nasri initially stood his ground and refused to move but the altercation set the tone for the rest of the competition.
In 2010, of course there was the players' strike, when the squad refused to train in protest against the exclusion of Nicolas Anelka after his rift with Domenech at half-time of France's game against Mexico. In the eyes of the world, France were a laughing stock, resulting in the shame of an entire nation.
But since his arrival, after the fiasco of Knysna, Blanc has brought everyone together and created a beautiful ambience within the group. It is no accident that in 2006, 2008 and 2010, the coach was Raymond Domenech, a trainer who has often sought conflict, locked in his certainties and arrogance.
With Blanc everything is different. The players respect and admire him. Let us not forget that in 1998, when he lifted the World Cup, M'Vila was only eight, Benzema 10, Nasri 11 and Mexes 16! Blanc has an aura that makes the group sit up and listen. He has changed the rules and opened the group up to the media, both at press conferences and training.
A measure of the good mood prevailing in this group? When the coach gave the players two rest days, on June 2 and 3, before they departed for Euro 2012, they had an urge to return to Clairefontaine to see their friends.
Everything is different with Blanc; the players respect and admire him
Playing Playstation or ping-pong, on the fourth floor of their borrowed Shakhtar Donetsk Kircha base camp, they laugh and chat, despite all the egos. Blanc has received lots of support from his assistant Jean-Louis Gasset, and has become a father figure for this generation. He is very close to the players and another unifying influence.
Blanc was also successful in selling les Bleus in the eyes of the public. He had always said that only the results matter, and with a series of 23 matches unbeaten and an excellent beginning to Euro 2012, the love has returned.
Even the small controversy around Samir Nasri and his now-infamous "Ferme ta gueule" after his goal against the English, it has not diminished the new relationship of love between the players and the public.
Indeed, more fans are watching the games on television. Against England there was, at one point, more than 14 million in front of the television screen.
There has also been a communications offensive, rather smartly on the part of the FFF, to retain the fans. The FFF has often had its share of responsibility in the existential problems of the team over the last six years but then, admittedly, they have done things well.
Before the start of the competition, Florent Malouda had words to explain the main recipe for a good tournament: "We must be prepared to suffer regardless of the individual and collective quality." This is really the idea. Give everything and sacrifice your all for the team and your team-mates.
Well, it seems that les Bleus of Laurent Blanc are achieving. And they may be more difficult to fight with this state of mind.
Julien Laurens is a French football journalist who is based in London and works for a number of publications including Le Parisien, RTL and Infosport.