Transformed France ready to target Euro success

Andy Scott

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - France coach Didier Deschamps is confident his side can learn the harsh lessons from World Cup heartache as they target success at the 2016 European Championship on home soil.

Les Bleus' promising World Cup adventure came to a disappointing end with a 1-0 quarter-final defeat to Germany in the Maracana on Friday.

But while Deschamps was dismayed at France's "timid" start to the match which saw Mats Hummels score what proved to be the winner, he leaves Brazil confident that the squad has a bright future.

Deschamps has transformed France's fortunes over the last eight months since the remarkable 3-0 victory against Ukraine that overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit in the decisive play-off to qualify for the World Cup.

"There is a group that was born when we qualified with the play-off win against Ukraine. I am proud of what the players have done on and off the field," said Deschamps.

"There is work to be done, but the materials are there. We need to maintain the same quality and the same spirit. I prefer to take away the positives that there have been since our arrival in Brazil."

Before crossing the Atlantic, the perception was that reaching the quarter-finals would be a success in the grander scheme of preparing a side capable of winning Euro 2016.

Deschamps' bold decision to omit Samir Nasri from his 23-man squad was also vindicated in Brazil, four years after France's disastrous 2010 campaign.

Leaving out the Manchester City player, considered a negative influence on squad morale, helped forge a spirit of unity that remained intact even after the withdrawal of Franck Ribery due to injury.

Now it remains to be seen whether Ribery, who will be 33 come Euro 2016, has a future in blue.

Without him in Brazil, France scored a combined total of eight goals in opening wins against Switzerland and Honduras, with Karim Benzema revelling in the limelight and netting three of that tally.

However, just two goals followed in their subsequent three outings, one of which was an own-goal in the hard-fought last-16 victory over Nigeria.

That shows that there is still plenty room for improvement, but Deschamps has the foundations in place to build towards what will be the first 24-team European Championship.

"We are a young team. It was good to start our journey together in this way and it has given us something to build on," said goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris.

"In two years we will be at home and we will do everything to make a good impression," added midfielder Yohan Cabaye, looking ahead.

France will now have to wait until June 10, 2016, to play their next competitive game, having to settle for a series of friendlies in the run-up to the Euros, starting with Spain in September.

Deschamps has no need to make drastic changes to his squad, though, with left-back Patrice Evra, now 33, the only member of the side that started against Germany whose international career is probably now over. Paris Saint-Germain's Lucas Digne is in line to be his long-term replacement.

Real Madrid central defender Raphael Varane, Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and winger Antoine Griezmann have their best years ahead of them, and Cabaye and Benzema will still be at their peak two years from now.

Deschamps also has a new crop of exciting talent emerging from the teams that won last year's under-20 World Cup and reached the under-19 European Championship final.

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