FIFA World Cup final: How France turned a stockpile of French talent into a chance to win back-to-back championships

France are playing in their second consecutive FIFA World Cup final and will face Argentina Sunday to potentially become the third nation to defend a men’s title. Consecutive finals are one thing, but the Blues have actually reached four of the last seven – an impressive feat considering this current run began in 1998 at home with captain Didier Deschamps lifting the trophy.

The French are doing at least twice as well as any other country so far in the 21st century and their talent and deep strength suggest they could be on the verge of tapping into their dynastic potential for the foreseeable future. Potentially heading to UEFA Euro 2024 with a third star on their shirts above their crest is a very real possibility unless Lionel Messi and from Qatar the mainstream narrative of Argentina’s legendary World Cup final may stop them at Lusail.

So how did France do four years apart? The latest feat by Deschamps and his team is a success that illustrates the incredible strength of developing young nationals and the French Football Federation’s mastery of the naturalization process to ensure that nothing is overlooked in the search for best talent.

Of the current squad of 25 players, 26 if you count the fact that French-born and raised Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema is still technically on the squad list because Deschamps hasn’t replaced him. , only four players have broken through outside of France. borders. Star man Antoine Griezmann, brothers Theo and Lucas Hernández and Dayot Upamecano were all born in France but made their professional debut abroad.

Griezmann hails from Macon but crossed the French border with Real Sociedad in spain Region of the Basque Country, which expands and influences parts of France due to concerns over its physique during trials with major French clubs. The Marseille-born Hernandez pair broke through with Atletico Madrid due to family circumstances. Upamecano was born and raised in Evreux and was so highly rated during his development at the Valenciennes academy that he was recruited by Red Bull Salzburg before turning professional and moving from Austria to Germany with RB Leipzig in less than two years. Both countries are currently reaping the benefits of extensive scouting in France and acquiring top talent at little cost.

Of Deschamps’ squad of 26 players for Qatar, three were born overseas with Marcus Thuram hailing from Parma where father Lilian was playing at a time when he and Deschamps were international teammates. Eduardo Camavinga arrived in France aged two after being born in Angola, similar to Steve Mandanda’s relocation to Upamecano’s hometown of Evreux when he was just two years old.

However, perhaps most incredible within this group of players is the fact that an XI from the Paris region could be fielded and would likely compete well at this World Cup. Of the 11 Parisian representatives, three hail from Bondy, which was put on the map by Kylian Mbappe but also provided William Saliba and the hero of the second goal in the semi-finals Randal Kolo Muani.

Factor in that absentees Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe and Christopher Nkunku would also complete that number. Born in French Guiana Mike Maignan being brought up and making his debut in the French system after moving at the age of 8 also gives a sense of the fertility and reach of the French capital region in terms of football.

The famous French national football center of Clairefontaine is only part of this achievement with Mbappe, Thuram, Areola and Nkunku, the members of this team to have passed through its ranks. However, from Portugal Raphael Guerreiro and Tunisia Hannibal Mejbri also represented the school of excellence at this winter’s World Cup and are further examples of the strength of the French academic system.

Historically, Brazil exported the most talent in the world, but France has closed that gap in recent years and now tops the European top five in terms of talent plying their trade outside their home country. Another World Cup victory in a tournament in which many expected Brazil to triumph would underline the Blues’ credentials as the new order of the world game.

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