The French National Team has endured a difficult period since the 2006 World Cup Final. The reasons for this can be summed up in coaching, attitudes and the retirement of players like Zinedine Zidane and Lilian Thuram.
France is a country that has a wealth of talent in its ranks. French players are key components to teams all across Europe, but the future fortunes of the French will be determined by Ligue 1.
France has had a solid 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign to date. Currently sitting second in the group behind current holders Spain, the French are giving themselves the opportunity to qualify for Brazil. While qualifying is important, the expectation for the French in Brazil will be to give a good account and make it through the group stage.
The big picture for French football going forward is in building a side to defend their home turf in Euro 2016. This look towards the future is where Ligue 1 will have the biggest effect.
Current marquee players like Karim Benzema, Hugo Lloris and Franck Ribery ply their trade outside of France. While Lloris, Ribery and Benzema are likely to be part of the 2016 squad, players like Patrice Evra and Philippe Mexes are unlikely to. With players like these exiting the international stage soon, there are openings that must be filled.
Some of these openings will come from players who have already moved to play in other countries. Players like Raphael Varane of Real Madrid and Paul Pogba of Juventus are expected to be mainstays in the national setup for the next decade. Even with these talents waiting to stake their claim in the team, there are other areas that will need fresh blood, and most of the faces to choose from currently reside in Ligue 1.
On the defensive end of things, the next three years will see players like Kurt Zouma (AS Saint-Etienne), Serge Aurier (Toulouse) and Lucas Digne (Lille) make their case for inclusion in the French squad.
The midfield and forward positions will be no different, as several talented players will be closely monitored leading up to the 2016 competition. Players like Lyon’s Maxime Gonalons and PSG’s Blaise Matuidi will be entering their prime years and may play their way into significant roles.
That is not to say these young talents will not move on to other leagues in the next few years. What Ligue 1 is providing for these players is their launching pad, and most importantly their stage for development.
This stage is getting better as the influx of stars and money at PSG has provided a bar for the league to play up to. That bar may be raised if Monaco and their financial backing return to Ligue 1 next season looking to go head-to-head with PSG. With these two squads along with Lille and Lyon boasting some high-end talent, the on-pitch education these young players are getting is better than Ligue 1 has previously been able to offer.
When the ball is put in play for Euro 2016, it will be a good bet that at least half of France’s roster will be playing their club ball in other countries. Even with that, it will have been Ligue 1 that cast the die on a majority of those careers shaping the future of the French national team in the process.