Football

Didier Deschamps is putting faith in French youth for Euro 2016

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It's fair to say the French national team hasn't enjoyed the greatest of fortune in recent years. The European Championships next summer will mark a decade since their last final at a major tournament.

A match which will forever be remembered for Zinedine Zidane's infamous headbutt, on what was his last ever appearance in the blue of France. Les Bleus lost on penalties, in a game that can be regarded as a starting point for an era of on-pitch mediocrity and off-pitch scandal.

The World Cup in 2010 was a particularly low point and is symptomatic of their rapid decline, as France finished at the bottom of their group in a tournament that will forever be remembered amongst French fans for the player revolt against their coach Raymond Domenech.

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Next summer, in front of their own fans, Didier Deschamps and his new crop of young and talented players, will feel that it is time to banish demons of the past and put an end to the decade-long disappointment.

1998 to the French is what 1966 is for the English - a very special year. For both countries, the achievement of winning the World Cup was made more momentous by doing it in front of their own fans at home.

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The expectation for France is huge for the Euro 2016 championships, as they once again play host to a major tournament. Zidane may have been the villain in 2006 but in the 1998 World Cup he was the star.

The scorer of two goals in the final and a player who had become a national icon overnight as his face was projected onto the Arc de Triomph along with the message 'Merci Zizou' for his player of the tournament performance at the championships.

Zidane was 25 when he won the World Cup for France in '98. Many players have come and gone since his retirement but now France perhaps has the best and most balanced squad it has had since the Marcel Desailly, Patrick Vieira, Zidane and Thierry Henry era went by. 

French manager Didier Deschamps has gradually been fast-tracking young players into the squad over the past few years, to supplement more experienced talent like Hugo Lloris, Blaise Matuidi and Karim Benzema.

Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma, Eliaqium Mangala, Lucas Digne, Layvin Kurzawa, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Nabil Fekir, Alexandre Lacazette and Anthony Martial are all 24 or younger, and have won a number of caps over the recent years and months. The future of French football is in good hands.

While it is likely that not all of these youngsters will make the 23 man squad for the Euros, they are all comfortable on the international stage and will be sure to make an impression for their country over the coming years.

Deschamps will be encouraged that all of them will be playing Champions League football this season and testing themselves every week against the best players in Europe. Every game, for club and country, is now an audition for these young French stars who will be hoping to stay fit and on form ahead of their home tournament next summer.

No other country in the world can boast such a wide range of young talent. Fans all over France will now be praying that this new generation of youngsters will be able to deliver their first major trophy since their last, on home soil, nearly 20 years ago. 

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Topics:
Football
Raphael Varane
Karim Benzema
Kurt Zouma
Paul Pogba

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