How the Nations League triumph can put France back on track to defend the World Cup title in Qatar

France are 2021 UEFA Nations League champions after an entertaining 2-1 win over Spain in the San Siro final in Italy on Sunday that came to life in the final half hour before another late French masterclass.

Mikel Oyarzabal had put La Roja ahead with 26 minutes to go, but that only served to spark the match alive and wake the world champions from their slumber with Karim Benzema equalizing superbly within two minutes of the resumption before the winner Kylian Mbappe 10 minutes from the end.

This success after their dramatic journey to victory against Belgium and the Spaniards bodes well for Didier Deschamps’ men after the disappointment of the UEFA European Championship this summer and the rambling nature of many recent performances.

Although this is a far from perfect display in a competition that does not have the same prestige as the FIFA World Cup and the Euro, it will be viewed positively in France as an example of the current group of players who find their way back to success. after a difficult period.

The post-Euro 2020 period has not been lacking in soul-searching from many members of the French squad, with Mbappe even going so far as to assert that he had offered to take a break from his international duties if it helped. team to rediscover itself.

It turns out that the Paris Saint-Germain man played a key role in the Nations League triumph with a goal and an assist in the victories of Belgium and Spain and suddenly has evidence for show that he can, in fact, tune in with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in attack very well.

While most of the talking points of recent times have been based on Mbappe’s recent media appearances as his future continues to take center stage, Benzema has also had a pair of highly productive outings with goals in each senior international silverware.

Deschamps has also been vindicated by the performances of his players over the past week as their strength of character is really put to the test as they fall behind two of the continent’s strongest teams and come back to beat them.

Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris has suffered quite a bit of criticism and has chosen the perfect time to respond with some vital saves late against Spain while Antoine Griezmann looks rejuvenated, Paul Pogba dynamic and Raphael Varane once again focused – which was certainly not the case. the case this summer.

New introductions such as Theo Hernandez immediately added to the impressive arsenal of talent available to the former World Cup captain and Euro winner and now Blues look more like the team than many mistakenly expected them to be this summer.

Although it is too late to reclaim that chance for a European crown now, the League of Nations is the closest thing and France are fortunate enough to take advantage of this success and build on the rest of the qualifiers for the World Cup to make sure they are favorites in Qatar.

It finally feels like the team are focused on winning again and in many ways maybe they needed this summer’s Euro setback and that pain to get them back on fire and hungry after the complacency that followed their 2018 World Cup title.

The goal must now be to defend their world title in 2022 to join Italy and Brazil in the elite group of back-to-back champions, who, judging by their ability to fight Belgium and then Spain in a few days, is really a possibility.

There is still time for Deschamps and his players to work out the finer details and a World Cup is a very different beast from the Nations League, but France has suddenly regained its swagger and must now capitalize on it by the end of the day. end of 2022.

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Pia Miller

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