France are now out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup following Friday's 1-0 defeat to Germany in Rio de Janeiro.
Their next competitive fixture will come in the opening match of the 2016 UEFA European Championship, which will be held on home soil.
Les Bleus return from Brazil having succeeded in their main aim of reaching the quarter-finals, but the manner of their narrow defeat to the Germans was disappointing. That disappointment speaks volumes about the potential which manager Didier Deschamps' team possesses—and the promise for the French Euro campaign in two years' time.
What are the reasons for this optimism?
This summer's World Cup was a stepping stone, a taste of things to come for France and a chance to put in place the foundations of a team strong enough to go one step farther when the Euros roll around.
Deschamps spoke pre-tournament of his hope to use Brazil as a testing ground for a number of players who he will be relying on in 2016, and judging by his comments to ligue1.com following the Germany defeat, the 45-year-old feels that objective was met:
I hope that nonetheless the core of a strong team was forged here. Something has happened since we beat the Ukraine for a place here in Brazil and there have been very promising signs along the way, including today. I'm very proud of how my players have conducted themselves both on and off the pitch.
Key in helping France impress in Brazil was the fact that they almost did not qualify—as Deschamps acknowledged in mentioning the Ukraine play-off encounter. Expectations were so low pre-tournament that Les Bleus' run to the last eight was better than or in line with what most were expecting from them.
Not only have the performances on the pitch won the French many admirers from neutrals at the World Cup, they have also helped the team maintain the interest of their fans—who are now well behind them again after the unity and camaraderie displayed since the heroic 3-0 win over Ukraine in Paris.
"I'm disappointed but I'm also proud and happy," Paul Pogba told ligue1.com after the Germany loss. "It was my dream to play in a World Cup. We made a lot of people in France very happy and that's a source of real joy."
"A few months ago, no-one would have thought that the France team would have the run we had," added Mathieu Valbuena. "We managed to win back the support of the France fans."
Those fans will now help drive the team to success in 2016, and Les Tricolores will be playing to their public as hosts in a positive, supportive environment—not one of pressure and criticism. However, based on this summer's showing, they will also expect another quarter-final finish or better.
This tournament has also given each member of the team some vital experience, even the older players in the squad. As coach, Deschamps himself will have also learned a lot—considering it was his first taste of a major international tournament—and will not be so naive in two years' time following the masterclass he received from Germany's Joachim Low at Estadio do Maracana.
Those younger players will be more mature in 2016 and—when you look at those prospective talents—the future is extremely bright.
Montpellier HSC's Remy Cabella—another prodigious talent—did not even set foot on the pitch in South America.
In addition to these talents, there are players such as Chelsea's Kurt Zouma, Athletic Club's Aymeric Laporte, Lille OSC's Sebastien Corchia, Olympique de Marseille's Florian Thauvin, PSG's Alphonse Areola and Olympique Lyonnais' Alexandre Lacazette, who did not even make the squad.
The future is bright for France, and the quality in depth available to Deschamps will be enviable in 2016, with the French potentially fielding one of the best teams in Europe.
The Brazil campaign was necessary, though, to start bringing the first wave of young talent through and to establish which of the elder players will comprise the core of the team for the next two years or more.
Les Bleus' biggest downfall in South America was a lack of collective talent.
Deschamps will have used the time in Brazil to build the experience of some of the players who will be at the Euros in 2016, and they will be complemented by an influx of exceptional young talent.
Overall, this summer's World Cup has been extremely positive for France—despite exiting with a whimper—and French fans should be feeling confident about this team moving forward.
A semi-final appearance should be the minimum aim for the team in 2016.
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