With Euro 2016 only around the corner, international managers had their final two occasions to view their roster before choosing the 23 players that will represent the respective countries at this summer's tournament. It was also a view for pundits around Europe to pick their favourites and the hosts themselves put up a very good case for that position.
The French have always had a strong squad and looked impressive during the group stages of the 2014 World Cup, however when they came up against, eventual winners, Germany in the quarter finals it was a case of lack of comparative experience.
The squad at the time contained a 21-year-old Paul Pogba and a 20-year-old Raphael Varane and a lacklustre bench. This time around, the growth of those two linchpin's along with the introduction of new faces such as Dimitri Payet and N'Golo Kante leaves Les Blues with strong competition for places and compelling candidates to raise the trophy.
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The New Faces
France's performances over the international break were refreshing and vibrant. They played lively attacking football, scoring seven goals in the process, despite conceding four goals over the two games.
The refreshed performances symbolised the revitalised squad, which does not read the same as that of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. There was no space for Premier League stars: Eliaquim Mangala, Mathieu Debuchy, Morgan Schneiderlin or Loic Remy, all of which have not hit the heights. Instead, players that have been inspirational this season, notably, Payet of West Ham, Kante of Leicester and Kingsley Coman of Bayern Munich.
The biggest absentees were Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema, both entangled in non-sporting affairs, the lack of whom was not significant, at least this time round.
There is only so much to be said about newcomers and first performances, often labelled as the easiest appearances, filled with encouragement and enthusiasm; it is consistent performances that win over the critics and we will see whether the debutants, or those returning to the squad, can maintain that form throughout the tournament.
However, France need not worry too much about the level of the newcomers, since around them there is a core of players who have been at a high level for some time.
Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Varane and Antoine Griezmann have been regular starters since the World Cup and have impressed since. Pogba, who won Best Young Player in Brazil, has gone on to win two more titles with Juventus and appeared in a Champion's League final. The same can be said of Varane, who took home a winner's medal in Lisbon in 2014 when Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid to achieve 'La Decima'.
Griezmann has had his most productive seasons following the tournament, scoring 22 goals in 2014/15 plus 19 goals already this season. Matuidi, meanwhile, has helped PSG wrap up their fourth straight title and progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions league.
French players are at the forefront of European football, and, regardless of the uncertainly as to who will spearhead the attack, are the team to beat at the European Champions, especially, on their own turf.
Do France have what it takes to win the Euros? Let us know YOUR thoughts in the comment section below!
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