France’s World Cup elite status secured by reaching final
DOHA, Qatar — Four World Cup finals in the past seven editions. This is where France are standing before facing Argentina on Sunday in the World Cup final as both sides aim to their third star. But only France can rightfully claim to stand right now at the top of the international football pyramid.
Their wins in 1998 and 2018 were the two triumphs. Losing in 2006 was the big disappointment. But what about 2022? To put it in perspective, Brazil reached four World Cup finals during a stretch of six editions (1950, 1958, 1962 and 1970), and Germany did even better with five finals appearances in seven editions (1966, 1974, 1982, 1986 and 1990). Only France claim to dominate during a such a stretch in a similar way.
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At the peak of their dominance, the Seleção won three titles out of those four finals (adding two more in 1994 and 2002). The Nationalmannschaft only brought home two out of those five (having also won in 1954 and in 2014). Should France win on Sunday, they will also still trail Italy‘s four World Cup titles in the all-time standings, but the Les Bleus are consolidating their place as the current best international football squad. No one can compete right now with their ongoing domination over the rest of the world. You can add two Euros finals, as well (a win in 2000 and a loss in 2016), to make six finals in their past 12 major tournaments. In the space of 25 years, a 50% ratio is incredible.
Winning on Sunday would validate even more this point. With potentially three winners’ medals (having won in 1998 as a player and in 2018 as manager), Didier Deschamps could cement his status among the all-time greats. Deschamps would equal Vittorio Pozzo, who is the only manager to have ever won the World Cup twice (1934 and 1938 with Italy). For Deschamps, to do it in the modern era and in a tournament with 32 countries would be even more significant.
Julien Laurens talks about Karim Benzema’s cryptic message on his latest Instagram post about not coming back to the World Cup to play for France in the final against Argentina.
Deschamps is the architect of this success. His pragmatic mind and approach fit a cup competition like the World Cup perfectly. He is a conservative guy, more defensive-minded than attacking-minded; but more importantly, he created a winning mentality and a special team spirit within his group. He took over a team traumatised by the failures of the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros. He taught them how to win, how to be solid, how to be ruthless.
Deschamps repeats all the time: “The French national team is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” And he is right. But he is also the best thing that has happened to the Les Bleus set up. He wants to stay in charge until the next Euros in 2024 in Germany, and he will get his wish because it would be absurd for the French federation not to keep him.
The players want him to stay. Antoine Griezmann said he owes Deschamps everything. Kylian Mbappe is also very grateful of their journey together. Deschamps is like a second father to Paul Pogba. Nevertheless, the head coach also was very lucky to have a fantastic generation of players to work with. France have talent and depth, and that’s also why they are serious winners. Not many other countries can boast so much quality. And there are some jewels in the next generations coming through too.
Deschamps’ impact has obviously also been boosted by the superstardom of Mbappe. The two don’t have a similar relationship that Deschamps has with Griezmann, but without Mbappe, France would not have won in 2018 and would not be in the final in 2022.
For Mbappe, 23, Sunday could be a special day, as he can become the youngest player since Pele to win back-to-back World Cups (1958,1962) — the difference being that the Brazilian player only competed in one game in 1962, while the French player has competed in every game in both tournaments.
Mbappe is not thinking about France’s dominance of the past 25 years. What he wants right now is to lead France to dominance for the next quarter century. His drive and ambition is out of this world. He wanted to be the leader of this team at the start of the tournament considering that Pogba and Karim Benzema are not here due to injuries. Mbappe stepped up when the team needed him the most.
He is far more vocal than four years ago, when he was just a 19-year-old on the verge of global stardom. Now it is different. This is Mbappe’s team now — and for the next 10 years — and he is just one victory from bringing home a third World Cup for France.