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Youthful talents point at bright future for France

Published: Saturday 5 July 2014, 14.16CET
The displays of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane – plus Didier Deschamps's leadership – mean France have reasons to be optimistic.

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Published: Saturday 5 July 2014, 14.16CET

Youthful talents point at bright future for France

The displays of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane – plus Didier Deschamps's leadership – mean France have reasons to be optimistic.

Were expectations met?
Four years on from their disaster in South Africa, France leave Brazil with credit restored after a run to the quarter-finals. Going that deep into the tournament seemed a long way off when Les Bleus were beaten 2-0 by Ukraine in the first leg of their play-off last November, but in reaching the stage they did, after a last-eight appearance at UEFA EURO 2012, it is evident things are moving in the right direction. Even more satisfying was the spirit the squad demonstrated on and off the pitch.

Group E: France 3-0 Honduras
Group E: France 5-2 Switzerland
Group E: France 0-0 Ecuador
Round of 16: France 2-0 Nigeria
Quarter-finals: France 0-1 Germany

What the media say
L'Équipe: Considering [Antoine] Griezmann's tears or the expressionless look of Mathieu Valbuena at the final whistle, Les Bleus's disappointment was on par with the hopes they secretly nurtured. This campaign will be useful in the future. EURO [2016] looms.

Libération: With a lack of inspiration, Les Bleus leave Brazil following the narrowest of defeats by an efficient Germany. This World Cup is not screwed up, but there is a long way to the top.

What they say
Didier Deschamps: "There was a lot of sadness, disappointment and frustration in the dressing room. I can't heal this, because that's what I'm feeling, too. We must not forget what we have done very well. We had the desire and ambition to go further. It was tight and there is pride at what we've done together."

Mamadou Sakho: "It's a young team with an identity being built. Of course, we missed a bit of experience in that game [against Germany], but we feel something strong, something growing in the squad."

Positives
Although Mats Hummels's early header at the Maracana ended France's tournament and their nine-game unbeaten run, a sequence of results that had raised hopes, the 1998 world champions should not be overly dejected. The 5-2 demolition of Switzerland – a match in which France scored three eye-catching goals in 23 first-half minutes – might have heightened expectations, but with several young players having been blooded in South America the future is bright.

Paul Pogba and Lucas Digne were part of France's FIFA U-20 World Cup winning-squad of 12 months ago, Griezmann, 23, was uncapped until 5 March and centre-backs Raphaël Varane and Mamadou Sakho are 21 and 24 respectively. And in Deschamps, France have a true leader whose substitutions turned the tide against Nigeria in the round of 16.

Room for improvement
"The opposition were used to [handling] such occasions. They possessed that bit of experience which helps in tight games," said Deschamps after the loss to Germany. With Franck Ribéry injured, France lacked somebody with the know-how of major tournaments. Will a series of friendlies ensure the squad is battle-hardened for the start of UEFA EURO 2016? While France have been famed for their playmakers of the past – such as Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini and Zinédine Zidane – there is no such talismanic figure in the current squad.

Emerging talent
Already established at Juventus, Pogba is living up to the excitement that greeted his debut in March 2013. A box-to-box midfielder with a muscular frame, Il Polpo (the Octopus) opened the scoring against Nigeria with a far-post header. "It was the biggest moment of my life," said the 21-year-old. The best might be still to come.

European Qualifiers
The UEFA EURO 2016 hosts will play centralised friendlies in accordance with the Week of Football schedule against those in the five-team qualifying group: Portugal, Denmark, Serbia, Armenia and Albania.

Last updated: 09/07/14 21.36CET

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