Four more years! Mbappe-inspired France can create a football dynasty

Comments()
Les Bleus have all the ingredients to become one of the great international football teams, with the Paris Saint-Germain ace at the fore

France’s path to World Cup glory began with the bitter taste of defeat.

Two years ago, with Les Bleus expected to claim the Euro 2016 title on home soil, they came up short against Portugal. An extra-time goal from Eder consigned them to a devastating 1-0 loss in front of nearly 76,000 fans at Stade de France. It was a harsh lesson in game management and tournament football, one that forced Didier Deschamps to assess both his personnel and tactics.

At times, their progression has not been obvious. Deschamps initially failed to impose a clear identity on his side, who stumbled and stuttered their way through qualifying before arriving in Russia without having settled upon a formation or clear game plan.

Their 4-2 victory over Croatia in Moscow on Sunday was the result of four weeks of intense development, in which the coach and his squad showed that they had learned from their European Championship heartbreak.

First and foremost, France made themselves difficult to beat. They produced the tournament’s outstanding defensive performance in the semi-final win over Belgium and were largely superb at the back. When big mistakes were made, these came in moments in which they already had insurance. 

While they served to frustrate neutrals due to their preference for a safety-first approach when they had a whole arsenal of attacking talent, the maturity and streetwise attitude of the team was formidable. 

“We had imperfections,” Deschamps admitted shortly after lifting the trophy. “We had some today. We didn’t do everything well but we showed decisive mental and psychological qualities in this World Cup, in which controlling possession was not enough.”

They managed their games almost flawlessly throughout, solved whatever problems were put in their way and played magnificent, measured, tournament football.  

It was the performance of a team at its peak – and yet what is most exciting about this France side is that so many of their players are so far from their zenith.

Of the 32 teams that arrived in Russia in the middle of June, only Nigeria could boast a younger squad.

From the 11 players that Deschamps started on Sunday, only Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and possibly Hugo Lloris are unlikely to be challenging for a place in the squad in 2022. The trio are all 31 – everyone else was aged 27 or younger. 

In the entire 23-man panel, only eight are aged 26 or over, and two of those are goalkeepers, Lloris and Steve Mandanda. 

Didier Deschamps PS

Counting only the players who were given game time, France had an average age of 25 years and 10 months – only the Brazil team of 1970 have won the cup with a younger squad, and only by a month.

Deschamps has not yet spoken of the future beyond confirming that he will remain in charge, but when he does, he will have to recognise that he is leading what has become the team to beat in world football.

When the World Cup rolls into Qatar in around four-and-a-half years, France will undoubtedly travel as one of the favourites. And so they should – Sunday’s success has teed them up for a generation of success.

Many of their young squad will be approaching their peak in 2022, while Mbappe could feasibly play the final of that competition two days before he turns 24 on December 20. 

They already have all the tools required to win the competition. Beyond the all-important winning mentality, they have a flexibility to play in several different ways, having won a slugging match with Argentina in the last 16 before coming out on top in a chess game against Belgium in the semi-finals.

Deschamps also has a depth of quality that is the envy of anyone in the international game. Indeed, it is to the team’s credit that there is no individual who is utterly key to how it performs.

France Croatia World Cup 15072018

Talents such as Kingsley Coman, Adrien Rabiot, Anthony Martial and Alexandre Lacazette did not even make the 23-man squad for Russia yet will all have set themselves the long-term ambition of making up part of the group that travels to the next World Cup. 

And there is no dearth of talent coming through the youth ranks, with a raft of promising players currently working their way through the academy systems at the likes of Rennes, Lyon, Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain. 

This ability to produce youngsters of the highest quality in France, develop them at first-team level and then sell them on to top clubs is reaping rewards for individuals, clubs and for the national team.

The exposure to senior football early is a theme that runs throughout the current team and has allowed Deschamps’ side to flourish young.

Mbappe epitomises this more than anyone else, having been handed his Monaco debut as a 16-year-old then thrust into the spotlight of the Champions League less than a year later. His progress has been astounding. 

Article continues below

“I want to do even better but being a world champion already is good,” he told TF1 after winning the award for the tournament’s outstanding young player – a gong it was barely worth even voting for given his outstanding World Cup.

If he and his squad can retain the hunger and togetherness they have shown over the last four weeks over the next four years, they have the potential to become one of the truly great international sides.

France have had their first taste of glory in 20 years, but with this generation, it is hard to imagine they will have to wait that long before another major title follows.

Next article:
Former La Liga stars unveiled as the latest LaLiga ambassadors
Next article:
Liverpool injury fears eased as Salah, Van Dijk and Milner train ahead of Huddersfield clash
Next article:
How Kepa rose from the Spanish third division to chase down De Gea
Next article:
ASUS ROG Army replace UNILAD in the Gfinity Elite Series
Next article:
‘South Africa won’t be easy’ - Nigeria’s Francis Uzoho
Close