France's journey to the final

2016 European Championships disappointment

France's journey to the 2018 World Cup final started a long time ago. Back in 2013 the French under 20's won the World Cup and stars were born. Paul Pogba won the golden ball that year, other players from that squad have gone on to represent France but Pogba was the standout. With a number of young talents coming through together France had to blend experience with youth as Didier Deschamps began to build this squad.

Paul Pogba France

Hosting the 2016 European Championships put a lot of pressure on this French side to win the competition. Most of the players still relatively young but they had a very strong squad, expectations were very high. France looked good throughout the tournament and made it all the way to the final. They were favourites for the trophy but were upset by Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. The 2018 World Cup squad hasn't changed too much to the one that played in the Euro's. Despite still being relatively young this squad has plenty of tournament experience. Thy've shown this throughout in Russia. They now know how to win games and have shown great maturity at times.

World Cup Qualification

Coming off the back of a European Championships runners up medal France were expected to cruise through their qualification group. They were drawn in a reasonably hard group with the Netherlands and Sweden but with one of the strongest squads in world football were still expected to finishes top in style. However, this was not the case. They finished top but only managed 18 goals in their 10 games. Didier Deschamps's negative tactics began to get criticism from the French media.

Didier Deschamps France

It wasn't plain sailing for France in qualification. As stated the French media were already taking issue with Didier Deschamps tactics and negative play. It's surprising to think a team that has now made it to two major tournament finals in a row were struggling against the likes of Bulgaria. They were held to 0-0 draws against both Belarus and Luxembourg as Deschamps continued to struggle to find his best starting eleven and impact players off the bench. Suffering a late defeat to Sweden half way through the campaign would have given them a scare but France have so many players capable of winning games on their own whatever Deschamps did or didn't do hasn't effected the team too poorly.

Once you get to the World Cup finals no one is interested in how you got there. Deschamps used qualification to experiment - too much at times - and tweak the squad that finished runners up in the European Championships.

2018 World Cup group stages

Drawn in group C with Denmark, Peru and Australia, France continued to underwhelm. Kylian Mbappe was one of the new additions to the squad that made the final of the 2016 European Championships. He represents the new age of attacking French players, along with the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Anthony Martial. However, it is Deschamps negative tactics that have stuck with France. Winning two of their three group games - 2-1 v Australia and 1-0 v Peru - and seeing out a bore draw against Denmark in the final game.

France 2018 FIFA World Cup

After the group stages France were not one of the teams that people were talking about for potential winners. They still hadn't looked good or dominated their matches up to that point. However, was this just a master stroke from Didier Deschamps? He's got his side just doing enough in the group stages to top the group without exerting too much energy. He would've learned a lot from the Euro's and is this something he picked up? Or have they not impressed due to Deschamps continuing to find his best system and the likes of Griezmann and Pogba have bailed him out yet again, as they did in qualification.

The knockouts

The knockout stages have seen France show why they deserve to be in the final. They've played and beaten Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium to get to the final. Ending up in the "harder" side of the draw every game could have been the final, playing top footballing nations in every round. Coming through every game having dominated the majority of the 90 minutes. Belgium was a tough test but this saw Deschamps "negative" tactics pay off. After Umtiti got the goal to put them 1-0 up France shut up shop and looked to counter Belgium. France have been playing like that for years now and after going 1-0 up it only looked like a France win with their strong defensive abilities.

Kylian Mbappe France World Cup

The knockout stages has seen France continue they're outstanding defending but finally we got to see their attacking players in action. Kylian Mbappe further increased his reputation in world football, out shining Lionel Messi and guiding France into the quarter finals with two goals and some very direct dribbling that helped get France out of trouble. At 19 years of age Mbappe has already achieved so much and is looking for a World Cup winners medal to add to that. The youngster is protected by the likes of Kante and Pogba, which allows him to play his own game and attack the opposition. He's produced some great bits of individual skill and is currently favourite to win the golden ball. France have all the weapons and the defence to win the World Cup. They've paced this journey to the final very well and whoever they play will have a real battle on their hands.

The failure of the 2016 European Championships will have an effect on this French squad, whether it is a positive or negative one we'll have to wait and see.


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