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

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

Mikel Oyarzabal had put La Roja ahead with 26 minutes to play but it only served to spark the game alive and woke the world champions from their slumber with Karim Benzema netting a superb equalizer within two minutes of the restart before Kylian Mbappe’s winner 10 minutes from time.

This success after their dramatic route to victory against both Belgium and the Spaniards bodes well for Didier Deschamps’ men after the disappointment of this summer’s UEFA European Championship and the disjointed nature of many recent displays.

While this was a far from perfect display in a competition which lacks the same prestige as the FIFA World Cup and the Euros, it will be viewed positively in France as an example of the current group of players finding their way back onto the path to success after a tough period.

The post-Euro 2020 period has involved no shortage of soul searching from many members of the French squad with Mbappe even going as far as claiming that he offered to take a break from international duty if it would help the team to rediscover itself.

As it turns out, the Paris Saint-Germain man has played a key role in the Nations League triumph with a goal and an assist in both the Belgium and Spain victories and suddenly has evidence to point to that he can, in fact, dovetail with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema in attack very nicely.

Although most of the talking points of lately have been based on Mbappe’s recent media appearances as his future continues to take center stage, Benzema too has enjoyed a very productive pair of outings with goals in each and now senior international silverware.

Deschamps, too, has been vindicated by his players’ performances over the past week with the strength of their character truly tested by falling behind against two of the strongest sides on the continent and coming back to beat them.

Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris has endured a fair amount of criticism and picked the ideal moment to respond to it with some vital saves late on against Spain while Antoine Griezmann appears rejuvenated, Paul Pogba dynamic and Raphael Varane focused once more — which was certainly not the case this summer.

New introductions such as Theo Hernandez have immediately added to the impressive arsenal of talent at the former World Cup and Euro-winning captain’s disposal and now Les Bleus look more like the team many mistakenly expected them to be this summer.

Although it is too late to get that shot at a European crown back now, the Nations League is the closest thing to it and France have the chance to take this success and build on it over the remainder of World Cup qualifying to ensure that they are favorites in Qatar.

It finally feels like the squad is focused on winning again and in many ways, they perhaps needed this summer’s Euro setback and that pain to give them new fire and hunger after the complacency which followed their 2018 World Cup title.

The aim must now be to defend their world title in 2022 to join Italy and Brazil in the elite band of back-to-back champions, which, judging by their ability to fight back against Belgium and then Spain inside a matter of days, is very much a possibility.

There is still time for Deschamps and his players to iron out the finer details and a World Cup is a vastly different beast to the Nations League, but France suddenly have their swagger back and now must capitalize on this between now and the end of 2022.

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