Heading into this summer’s rescheduled Euros, Didier Deschamps will know better than most that his side have a huge opportunity to lift the trophy.
If their squad wasn’t already incredible, the addition of Karim Benzema this week after six years in the international wilderness has made them a force to be reckoned with.
Already world champions, they have now added an incredible striker to their 26-man squad, with the Real Madrid star ready to lead the line for his country once more.
The enviable hordes of talent at Deschamps’ disposal ahead of France’s tilt at the Euro 2020 crown are seemingly endless – and the combination of youth, experience and drive sets them in fine stead to go all the way.
His world champions are the favourites to win the tournament, rightly so, and will surely be feared by all of their upcoming opponents… but the difficultly for Deschamps now is narrowing them down to the 11 that he puts on the field.
Didier Deschamps is blessed with an abundance of talent for France’s Euro 2020 trophy tilt
Les Bleus came so close in 2016 and their superb squad will hope to go one better this summer
The players who start, added to the reels of options on the bench, may be strong enough to help usher in a new era of dominance, akin to a swaggering Spain between 2008 and 2012.
It is a headache which, if Deschamps gets right, will avenge France’s agonising loss on home soil in the 2016 final in the best way possible. The last-gasp strike from Eder all those years ago punished Les Bleus, who were denied by the quality of the goal and stellar goalkeeping at the other end.
In a tournament which, at times, was lacking in genuine cutting edge, or teams really taking the bull by the horns, France came the closest to perfection. And now, with the best selection in world football at his disposal, Deschamps will want to avenge those demons of the past and clinch another major trophy.
Karim Benzema has returned to the France squad thanks to his brilliant form for Real Madrid
A late goal from Portugal’s Eder downed France in 2016 but Deschamps’ team have improved
It truly appears as if all of the building blocks necessary to guarantee success at a big tournament have neatly fallen into place for France. They have, after all, lost just three games out of 39, have improved vastly as a squad, and Benzema may just be the final piece of their jigsaw.
There has hardly been a notable changing of the guard either. Blaise Matuidi and Samuel Umtiti, both starters from the group which won the World Cup almost three years ago, have gone. The rest, including the Peter Pan-like Olivier Giroud, is almost exactly the same.
The blend within the outfit is mouth-watering. The truly world-class performers – namely N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Benzema and Antoine Griezmann – are complimented brilliantly by those around them.
It is no freak of nature that four of the seven most expensive players in history are from France. They play, or have played, for the biggest clubs in the world, pushing for silverware and bring their relentless attitude with them on international duty.
According to Transfermarkt, their squad ranks first in terms of the value of all its players combined. The figure stands at a hefty £1.04billion, just ahead of England. Money is no guarantee of success, admittedly, but it certainly helps.
Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, two world-class players, will prove key at the showpiece
Benzema had been exiled by France manager Didier Deschamps since 2015 but is now back
Deschamps’ France are streetwise and compact. They will sit deep, with each part of the team expertly drilled, and from there it’s a question of working the ball to the forwards and revelling in their magic.
And it certainly could be magic if it all comes together. The potential to have Benzema through the middle, with Mbappe and Griezmann either side is mouthwatering to say the least.
They have the system, the coach and the players to go all the way this summer, then. But what is their secret? Just how have France moulded together the array of star-studded talent ready to take on the rest of the continent?
Two years ago in Russia, France brought with them the second-youngest squad in the competition. Their average player age was just 25.6 years, narrowly behind the 25.5 of Nigeria. In fact, only Brazil in 1970 won the trophy with a younger team.
Now, down the line, that fresh-faced group have picked up battle scars from experience and developed even more know-how. It’s a terrifying proposition.
Every position has several players jostling to become first-choice.
Kylian Mbappe has progressed through France’s youth ranks into a World Cup winner
Sportsmail’s graphic details the incredible depth France have across their entire squad
FRANCE’S 26-MAN EUROS SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham); Mike Maignan (Lille); Steve Mandanda (Marseille)
Defenders: Lucas Digne (Everton); Leo Dubois (Lyon); Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich); Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain); Jules Kounde (Sevilla); Clement Lenglet (Barcelona); Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich); Raphael Varane (Real Madrid); Kurt Zouma (Chelsea)
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea); Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid); Paul Pogba (Manchester United); Adrien Rabiot (Juventus); Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham); Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco); Karim Benzema (Real Madrid); Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich); Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona); Olivier Giroud (Chelsea); Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona); Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain); Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Deschamps this week named his squad for the tournament, whittling four goalkeepers from the last squad down to just three for this summer.
Hugo Lloris will start between the sticks and again sport the captain’s armband, while Lille’s Mike Maignan and Marseille stopper Steve Mandanda make the cut. It was bad news for Fulham loanee Alphonse Areola, who misses out.
Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez all started in France’s last competitive fixture against Bosnia and Herzegovina – and might be picked as Deschamps’ first-choice backline having all made the cut.
Everton’s Lucas Digne, Lyon defender Leo Dubois and Clement Lenglet from Barcelona are among the raft of alternatives also in the final squad, while Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma and Sevilla rising star Jules Kounde are in too.
In midfield, Pogba and Adrien Rabiot played prominent roles during the qualifiers, and Moussa Sissoko will also be hopeful of making an impact having made the squad. There was no place for Tanguy N’Dombele, though, despite some impressive performances for Spurs.
Elsewhere in the midfield, N’Golo Kante, Thomas Lemar and Corentin Tolisso show the huge strength in depth, all playing week in, week out for top European clubs.
And up top, Griezmann, Mbappe and now Benzema will be relied upon heavily. However, the in-form Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, Chelsea’s Giroud and Ousmane Dembele hold a good chance of playing second fiddle, while youngster Marcus Thuram will be desperate to make a name for himself.
Quite simply, the key to France’s success has been the stacks of talent available at every age level.
Raphael Varane has featured heavily in World Cup qualifying and is likely to start this summer
Tanguy Ndombele had also featured last month but now hasn’t even made the 26-man squad
When Deschamps took the reins in 2012, the senior team he inherited was hardly likely to set the world alight. Below him, however, were hordes of impressive youngsters honing their craft alongside team-mates who later went on to win the World Cup with them.
Their Under-19s generation was special. They won the U20 World Cup, with five of the triumphant team – Pogba, Varane, Umtiti, Florian Thauvin and Areola – going on to lift the trophy again in the senior set-up six years later.
In 2013, the Under-19s reached the final of the European Championship. Benjamin Mendy, Rabiot, Aymeric Laporte and Anthony Martial all featured.
The Under-17s group became champions of Europe in 2015.
Mbappe, now at Paris Saint-Germain, was the pick of the bunch for the U19s when they ruled the roost at Euro 2016.
Deschamps has been able to welcome through a host of players who starred below senior level
Coman, Hernandez and Pavard have all also played their part for France’s youth ranks.
Having access to gifted players is one element, but blooding them is another entirely. Luckily, Deschamps has given a debut to over 50 players since taking over from Laurent Blanc almost a decade ago.
He’ll know his enviable roster has its drawbacks, though. Players who start week in and week out at club level have not even been called up to the showpiece.
Incredibly, the likes of Anthony Martial, Eduardo Camavinga, Ferland Mendy, Alexandre Lacazette, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez, Houssem Aouar, Nabil Fekir, Blaise Matuidi, Steven N’Zonzi, Florian Thauvin, Benjamin Mendy and Samuel Umtiti will all have to watch their country from the comfort of their sofas at home.
Kingsley Coman may well find himself on the bench, but will be glad to have made the squad
Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has missed out after picking up a knee problem
The abundance of riches means that Leicester stalwart Wesley Fofana, who has reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United in recent weeks, isn’t even guaranteed action at U21 level because of the strength in depth.
Manchester City’s Laporte has switched allegiances to Spain after never receiving a single French cap.
Amine Gouiri and Moussa Diaby, both starlets in their own right, are on the fringes and braced to also watch their nation in action on television.
So, as Deschamps settles down at his desk and looks to fit together the pieces of his brain-aching puzzle once and for all, he will be safe in the knowledge that he possesses the finest group of players currently on the international stage, even more so now that Benzema is included.
His choices may well see France add another glistening piece of silverware to their collection – and herald in confirmation that this is their new era of dominance.