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Deschamps and Les Bleus - a winning generation?

Didier Deschamps and Les Bleus - a winning generation?

July 14, 2018 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
They came, they've seen, can they conquer?

 For the umpteenth time since hosting and winning the World Cup in 1998, there is enough reason for France to believe and hope that success is looming. This time, however, they'd hope things will be different and more accurately positive.

Playing in major tournaments in the past few years have brought memorable experiences but none of whose endings have given the nation enough reason to light up the Champs Elysees in tri-colours and party throughout the night. In fairness, it is not for the lack of trying as Les Bleus, aside the upcoming final against Croatia in Russia, have reached two major finals following their success some 20 years ago.

A stellar campaign at the 2006 World Cup at Germany landed them in the final although the only memorable scene of their appearance was Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi. France ended up losing to Italy in the penalty shootouts.

After subsequently failing at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, a new era was ushered with the appointment of Didier Deschamps. Having captained the French teams that scooped the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Euros, the winning feeling wasn't anew to the former Olympique Marseille gaffer.

With Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, and co. all at his disposal, instant success was almost certain but as it turned out, that was barely the case. What followed was respective quarter-final berths at Euro 2012 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup coupled with more resentment for the failure to reach a certain standard as a big football nation.

With some of the regulars in those years going past their prime years, another era was ushered. Being the shepherd of a new crop of players in Antoine Griezmann, Dmitri Payet, Paul Pogba, Olivier Giroud, and co., the nostalgic feeling of tasting another defeat while in arms reach of a major trophy was reinstated in the Euro 2016.

Eder's extra-time strike for Portugal meant that France could not complete the fairytale of hosting and winning the continental championship and what followed was a barrage of criticisms - mostly directed at the 49-year-old manager - for falling short of expectations despite having one of the best squads around. The disparagements were justified. In retrospect, France could have indeed done better in that final against Portugal two years ago.

Nevertheless, with lying dogs resting, and fortified by the disappointment endured at the Parc des Princes, Didier Deschamps and his comrades have neared exoneration. It has taken dedication, selection dilemmas, the need to place the team's needs ahead of individual gains as well as faith in a very young generation to brush off the likes of Uruguay, Argentina and Belgium and reach the promise land.

On Sunday, Mbappe, Pogba, Griezmann and their compatriots will get the opportunity to write their own legacy just as Deschamps did with his 1998 teams. But whatever the outcome may be against Croatia, the mindset of working through prior disappointment with compromises already makes each member of Les Bleus a winner.

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