I keep having this dream – or perhaps it’s a recurring nightmare – of a bleach-blonde behemoth wheeling away to celebrate in front of a bunch of stunned away fans.
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The 15th of July 2018, was the beginning of what could potentially become a French dynasty. The French side were too good in the end against Croatia winning 4-2 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final.
After going into half-time leading 2-1 after an early own goal and an Antoine Griezmann penalty in the 38th minute, ‘Les Bleus’ ran over the Croatians in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe added to the scoresheet to take the score out to 4-1.
With 25 minutes left seemed that France had shrugged off the horrors of their 2016 Euros loss to Portugal.
The score would end up 4-2 after a Hugo Lloris mistake which Mario Mandzukic capitalised on in the 69th minute and the score would remain the same until the final whistle, giving France their second World Cup trophy, 20 years after their first – the 1998 World Cup.
Given the storylines of this World Cup it was quite bizarre for a main contender to win the tournament after a key theme had been the main contenders bowing out early on in the month long competition.
Les Bleus continued to allow the opposition dominate the possession after only having 34.2 per cent of the possession in the final, along with 49.6 per cent for the tournament. Lack of possession hasn’t seemed to bother the French side throughout the event. They just waited for the middle of the pitch to open up and allow Griezmann and Mbappe to capitalise in this space which is when the French have looked their most dangerous.
Deschamps’ men never looked like losing in the tournament which is pretty special given the side wasn’t playing anywhere near their best football. The two-time World Cup winners’ men only trailed for nine minutes during the World Cup, which was in their quarter final versus Argentina.
During the final, the potential for this squad was displayed mainly through bits of individual brilliance. It came from midfielder Pogba, highlighted by his long through-ball for Mbappe from which Pogba ended up scoring.
Another player with bits of brilliance during the final and throughout the tournament was 19-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe who scored from outside of the box to extend the lead to three during the final.
Deschamps’ men bought into the strategy that he put forward for this World Cup. This strategy saw Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard play full-back who are both natural centre-halves and also saw Pogba play a holding midfield role and Griezmann play a defensive forward role. For Pogba, N’Golo Kante allowed Pogba to play this role as Kante was the real engine of the champions’ midfield.
These players had to adapt to their game throughout the tournament and may possibly be the reason that France never really stepped into third and fourth gears, which could’ve potentially been destructive in the World Cup.
The champs’ next focus will be the 2020 European Championships and the nucleus of that side will almost be identical as 15 of the 23 player squad are 25 years of younger. These players are here to stay. Of their key contributors this tournament, only Hugo Lloris, Blaise Matuidi and Olivier Giroud are older than 30 and Griezmann and Kante are 27. Don’t be surprised if this side steams through the 2020 Euros.
Exactly 20 years ago, when Les Bleus were crowned World champions for the first time, it was the closest France has been to a dynasty. After their 1998 victory, the side went onto win the 2000 Euros and were second best in the 2006 World Cup and the arrival of this current young side on the big stage will hopefully produce bigger returns than the side led by French legend Zinedine Zidane.