France will be heartbroken after losing the World Cup final to Argentina in a penalty shootout but the genius of Kylian Mbappe and the depth of talent in the squad bode well for the future.
France began the World Cup without Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, striker Christopher Nkunku, midfielders Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba and lost left back Lucas Hernandez in the first game and yet still reached the final, where they lost 4-2 on penalties after a spectacular 3-3 draw.
Mbappe, who turns 24 on Tuesday, netted all three French goals, taking his tally from two World Cups to 12.
All of his goals on Sunday came after coach Didier Deschamps sent on Randal Kolo Muani (24), Marcus Thuram (25), Eduardo Camavinga (20), and Kingsley Coman (26).
“Potentially, this France team has an important reservoir of talents,” said Deschamps.
“Before this tournament, we had a lot of players with little experience and they proved that they could play at the highest level. There are also others who were not here but all of them will be able to feature in the next tournaments.
“We’ll always need experienced team leaders to groom the young players but the reservoir is big.”
Deschamps, however, stressed that the collective mindset – which was beyond reproach in Qatar – would be just as important as talent.
“Now we have to shape up a squad so that on top of the players’ qualities, we have the mindset,” he explained.
“I was not worried about that before the tournament and I’m not worried about it now.”
France can probably count on Antoine Griezmann, 31, to link the generations.
“Some players have been in the Euro 2016 final, won the 2018 World Cup, they bring their experience. Maturity is important,” said Deschamps.
“But with a good balance, some young players will raise their level just like some did four years ago and some did at this World Cup.”
Deschamps will also have been pleased with the solid play of midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot, as well as centre backs Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate.
Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris said France were in something of a transition phase.
“There are no words that will appease our pain but I think this tournament will serve us for the future,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a relay between a generation who are near the end of their career and a new generation led by Kylian, who showed what leader he could be – in the tournament and in the final.
“We have to keep this France team at this level, with the best players on the world and European stage.”