France had justifiably started the 2018 World Cup campaign as one of the favorites.Along with teams such as Argentina, Brazil and Spain, they were favored to go all the way.But many of their own supporters felt they would collapse under the weight of expectation, or they feared that egos within the dressing room would get in the way.
But France navigated through all those pitfalls and emerged as champions. How did they manage to put individual egos aside for the good of the team?
Didier Deschamps Leads the Way
France coach Didier Deschamps was getting a fair amount of criticism ahead of the tournament. His team failed at the final hurdle in Euro 2016 and many fans found his approach was too defensive.
But he managed to do what many other coaches at that level fail to achieve – he got the players to put themselves aside.
The French side is brimming with talent, with many top players not even starting. Such teams can be a recipe for disharmony, with every player wanting to do things their own way.
Deschamps got everyone on the same side. Talented players such as Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe were happy to play within a system that suited the whole team.
Pogba and Mbappe Shine
While the entire side played tremendously throughout the tournament, two standout players for France were Pogba and Mbappe. The former finally showed why he is seen as one of the best midfielders in the world, while the latter lit up the tournament as a teenager in a manner not seen since Pele.
The French side was built on solid defense. They understood that teams who do not concede many goals have a great chance of going all the way. And they trusted the likes of Pogba and Mbappe to provide the individual quality when it was needed.
Unselfish Olivier Giroud Typifies France
If there is one player who could sum up the way France played at the 2018 World Cup, it is their starting forward Olivier Giroud. Most would expect a winning team’s forward to be up there with the top scorers in the tournament.
But Giroud, who started almost every game, did not score a single goal in the competition. And yet he kept his place, because his coach and teammates understood the value he brought.
Giroud focused on bringing other players into the game. Leading the line in an unselfish and hardworking manner, ensuring the team got the results they needed in every stage of the tournament.
The Future is Bright
Many nations experience a lull after winning the World Cup. Germany following their 2014 triumph is a good example. But the future looks bright for France, especially if Deschamps stays as the coach.
He has found a formula that works; a way to get the most out of the talented younger players at his disposal, while maintaining a solid defense as well.
There is nothing stopping France from dominating the game in the coming four to six years. Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 are very much winnable tournaments given the quality they possess.