FIFA 2018: France’s win is the triumph of the collective

France are deserving winners of the World Cup, their thrilling victory in the final against Croatia a befitting end to the most enjoyable tournament in recent memory. France have appeared in five of the last 11 World Cup and European Cup finals. They have won three titles. France’s depth of young talent indicates that they will continue to make huge strides on the world stage. By all accounts, as other European powers such as Germany and Spain begin to rebuild, France look likely to be the favourites at Euro 2020.

France were the second youngest team in the tournament. They have in Kylian Mbappe the most explosive young footballer in the game, the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958. In midfielder Paul Pogba, they have a man who, not so long ago, was the most expensive player on the planet. In Antoine Griezmann, they have one of the most sublime attackers in the contemporary game. Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti, at the heart of their defence, are stars at Real Madrid and Barcelona.

But their triumph is not merely predicated on the array of young talent they have. It is a triumph of the collective. They are a side full of bona fide stars, but without a single diva. The stardom and celebrity of some of the finest footballers in the world is secondary to the ideal of everything coming together for the team. Pogba, who as a Manchester United player, does not do much defending, kept dropping back and defending with bloodymindedness through the tournament. He epitomised what this France team is all about.

Supremely drilled defensively, with a midfield engine that purred like a Rolls-Royce, an attack capable of shredding the best teams, France played within themselves, always controlled, always bristling with menace, capable, at will, of exploding into breathtaking pyrotechnics. Never dour, but always disciplined, they were often criticised for not putting on more scintillating displays. There was no showboating, no genuflecting at the altar of a single star. In manager Didier Deschamps, they had a man who laid out the strategy, and had the courage and the conviction to stick to it. Argentina and Portugal, in thrall to the genius of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, fell by the wayside. No slouch in the genius department, France’s win was a truly shared one.

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