France have grown a notorious reputation over the last ten years as useless and inefficient. From the defeat against Senegal at the opening of the World Cup 2002, they have been extremely poor in international competition. Even reaching the World Cup Final in 2006 wasn’t celebrated as a huge success.
But now, France look to have a bright future, particularly in their youth squads. A wide range of quality technical players have been birthed and the future seems bright for the national sides. The Under-21 squad didn’t qualify for the European Championships and they are marred by some players being banned, but there is still quality in the squad.
Alexandre Lacazette has made the desired impact at Lyon, adding mobility to their attack as well as some goals. M’Baye Niang is also an exciting prospect for Milan. Massmiliano Allegri (AC Milan manager) spoke of his ability:
“He is a versatile striker who can play both as a center forward and as a second striker. He still needs to improve, but he’s developing well.’’
Antoine Greizmann is a player that France could utilize to great effect. An excellent technical player, he is the main reason Real Sociedad have had great success this season. With the ability to play anywhere across the forward line, he is extremely versatile and fits the band to the sort of player that was in France squad in 1998.
In the defense, France have a very capable center-back for the future; Raphael Varane has shown at the tender age of 19 he can read the game as well as any other. Filled with great athleticism, he has the ability to be the best defensive player in the world. He has been rightly suggested by Zidane to surpass Laurent Blanc in his ability.
Meanwhile, the France Under-20 squad harbors some great talent and they go into the Under 20 World Cup with a serious chance of victory. Geoffrey Kondogbia has been the main talking point in the squad, a player who looks a veteran on the field. The plaudits he has earned while playing for Sevilla and the French youth squads has been rightly deserved. Top clubs such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Juventus have been tracking the youngster, who told Spanish Paper Estadio Deportivo that he is attracted to Premier League football.
A player that could partner Kondogbia in the center of the park for France is Juventus youngster, Paul Pogba. After never fitting in at Manchester United, Juventus have brought out the best in his ability. A highly competent midfielder, he has also shown he has an eye for goal, with a total of five league goals thus far. The pairing of Kondogbia and Pogba looked very comfortable in the Under-19 Championships; likely the best pairing in the tournament. It boded well for the future of the French National Team.
Another player that could be a great addition to the French back line is Samuel Umtiti; a very able center back, he has shown his versatility as full back against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, in which he scored a blockbuster strike. He was a member of the 2012 Under-19 Championships squad, and for the full tournament he showed himself as the finest central defender in the competition.
He and Varane could be an excellent pairing, it does seem logical for France Under 20 coach Pierre Mankowski to select the pair for the upcoming World Cup.
The Under-20 World Cup this summer will provide a stern test for the youngsters; they face a difficult group against Spain, USA, and a side from Africa. Spain will be a very difficult test; the Under 19 side was very unlucky not to overhaul them in an enthralling encounter at the Under-19 Championships. It could be time for their first slice of revenge.
USA provides the unknown to some degree; football in America is very much on the rise and they have obviously developed some technique in their game with ever improving coaching techniques. The tournament is pivotal in French football, with one of the strongest sides in the tournament it will be a unique learning curve for the squad.
The France national team currently have reason to be optimistic, with a real opportunity to knock Spain back to reality in their qualifying group. An impressive 1-1 draw in Spain has been the pinnacle of Didier Deschamps reign so far. Some may have written off France to even reach Brazil in 2014, and even if they reach there, they will still be largely dismissed.
Some of Under-21 contingent could find themselves on the plane to Brazil; Rapahel Varane may be spoken as one of the World’s best central defenders and Geoffrey Kondogbia could make a huge leap towards the national side if he makes a big money move. An average of 25.2 in the recent 3-1 victory over Georgia this squad is far from maxing out its potential.
They could be a side to look out for in their own European Championship in 2016 and the World Cup in Russia in 2018.