France exited the World Cup after promising more against Germany in the quarterfinals. ESPNFC blogger Jonathan Johnson gives his verdict on the brighter points of the campaign as well as what went wrong.
One sentence: World Cup recap
A promising campaign with vibrant early displays won many admirers before France's collective inexperience told.
Although Karim Benzema was top scorer for the French in Brazil -- netting three times and laying on another three goals in the first two games -- the Real Madrid man went missing when it mattered the most. The same accusations cannot be leveled at Mathieu Valbuena, who came to the fore with Les Bleus every time he was called upon and earned recognition for his creative talents that has been long overdue. In South America, the Olympique de Marseille man was central to everything that Didier Deschamps' side did going forward and the pint-sized schemer even managed to get a well-deserved goal against Switzerland.
At 29 years old, Valbuena should still feature at the 2016 UEFA European Championship in two years' time. Regardless, his performances in Brazil will have alerted a number of potential suitors and le Petit Vélo should finally secure the move away from Stade Velodrome that he craves this summer.
The convincing wins over Honduras and Switzerland in Group E were the two outstanding highlights from France's time in South America. The victory over the Swiss in Salvador, Brazil, was particularly memorable, with Deschamps' men -- Benzema in particular -- looking insatiable and at their very best for their country. It was an indication of exactly what this French team are capable of and the potential that they possess. It was also a glimpse at just how different a beast Les Bleus are when Benzema decides that he feels like turning on the style. The scenes each time the team scored a goal will also be reflected upon fondly as it was clear in Brazil that a genuine bond has been formed between the members of this group.
Crashing out with a whimper to Germany will go down as the low point of France's Brazilian sojourn and rightly so. It was not the ultimate result that was disappointing, as few genuinely expected Deschamps' men to knock the Germans out, but it was the lack of fight in the quarterfinal that will leave a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. There can be no doubt that this team were capable of beating Joachim Low's side based on individual talent, but Germany exposed France's limitations -- particularly in terms of attitude shown -- and overall there can be few complaints.
The French learned a number of lessons in South America, but it is important to remember how young and inexperienced the squad were. Firstly, there is so much potential in this team; they have the ability to go on and challenge for the Euro 2016 title on home soil and possibly future World Cups. Secondly, the group were too naïve and that goes for Deschamps as well as his players. Les Bleus showed Germany far too much respect in the quarterfinal, yet they got beaten only 1-0 and Low felt obliged to field a starting XI that reflected his fear of this French side.
All team assessments
Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast | Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
In the future, France must be more clinical, especially in the latter stages. They were never going to enjoy a plethora of clear-cut chances against the Germans, but they needed to do better in both of their later-stage encounters. This group is yet to mature, but when it does, there are some major talents here.
A last-eight finish for a squad with barely any collective experience of World Cup football represents an encouraging start to tournament life under Deschamps and completes a miraculous turnaround in fortunes after the French almost did not make it to Brazil. Despite two impressive performances against Honduras and Switzerland, France still cannot rely on Benzema. The Real Madrid man might have done enough with his three goals and three assists to suggest to Deschamps that he is capable of leading this team, but his vanishing acts in the Nigeria and Germany matches -- when it mattered most -- should not be forgotten too hastily.
Jonathan Johnson is based in Paris and the voice of PSG TV. He also writes for French Football Weekly. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.