Failures arrive in different ways, and this is true of life just as it is true of football. Expectations can have a significant effect on failure, and in this sense, France must be able to put the past behind them ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup this summer.
As one of the tournament favourites, Les Bleus have been tipped by many to lift the title in Russia. They will begin the competition in Group C, facing Denmark, Peru and Australia. Confidence should be high, but France cannot allow the disappointment of Euro 2016 to be in their collective mind.
Two years ago, everything seemed to go perfectly for manager Didier Deschamps’ side. Hosting the European Championships that summer, all the stars were aligned for France. They made their way past the group stage without a loss and defeated Ireland and Iceland in the knockout rounds.
It appeared that their greatest test would arrive in the semi-finals and an intriguing date with Germany. However, the squad was definitely prepared and secured a fantastic 2-0 victory thanks to a brace from Antoine Griezmann. It was France’s first win against the Germans at a major international tournament since 1958.
They met Portugal in the final, and few believed that the home country would not be celebrating a title. Instead, Portugal secured a remarkable result in extra-time and left French supporters stunned.
There was plenty of blame to go around, as the team’s tactics certainly let them down that evening. Paul Pogba’s role as a holding midfielder did not work out well, and France struggled to create genuine scoring opportunities.
Griezmann and Olivier Giroud could not find a break-through moment, and the squad ultimately let Portugal stay in the match for far too long.
Another chance at glory
While some of the players in that 2016 final will not be in the team this summer at the World Cup, France must find a way to take positives from the lessons learned in that game at the Stade de France. Like many champions before them, these are the moments that can build character.
The feeling of invincibility that was present at Euro 2016 simply cannot be taken for granted, as there is no guarantee that this side will make their way to a major final once more. Players like Griezmann and Pogba will remember the pain of that loss to Portugal, along with Giroud and captain Hugo Lloris.
It is more than just attitude and motivation also, as the current group of players is even more talented than the collection Deschamps had at his disposal two years ago. Opportunities at the sport’s biggest prize do not arrive often, and France need to be ready for an important period of time.
France have the ability and quality to defeat any side at the World Cup this summer, but they also must make sure not to defeat themselves.
32 teams will compete for the title beginning this month. If France are to be the last nation standing in the final, they must focus on the present and learn from the past.