France Under-21 begin their European Under-21 Championship campaign on Thursday with a match against Denmark.
World champions at senior level, France may have a habit of producing world-class young players, but they have struggled to produce age-group teams of quality. Often, the individual talents of players is not reflected at the squad level.
The team they are sending to Hungary and Slovenia for the group stage is arguably one of the most formidable that they have produced in recent years and it is up to boss Sylvain Ripoll to get the best out of the players and help France Under-21 to win just their second title, having last done so in 1988.
Here are five players to watch from the team – a mix of those set for big clubs in the summer and those hidden gems with the potential to explode in the years to come.
Five France Under-21 stars to watch:
Jules Kounde (Sevilla)
France Under-21 caps: 5
France Under-21 goals: 1
While Leicester centre-back Wesley Fofana may have grabbed the spotlight this season through his outstanding performances in the Premier League, France Under-21 team-mate Jules Kounde is set to join him at the very elite level in the not too distant future.
The athletic Sevilla defender, who has already earned more than 100 league appearances in Ligue 1 and La Liga, moved to Spain for around €25 million in the summer of 2019 and has readily established himself at that standard.
Indeed, he was named in the Team of the Tournament as Sevilla won the Europa League last year, notably knocking out Manchester United en route.
So impressed were the Red Devils with the performance of the 22-year-old in that game, that they have been tracking him ever since, and it would be little surprise if they were to make a move for him this summer.
If they don’t, someone surely will. Kounde has already turned down Manchester City in the past and has been praised for his “professional and respectful behaviour” by Sevilla sporting director Monchi.
With a strong attitude, excellent physique and fine defensive attributes, he is a player who will go far in the game and should shine in the European Under-21 Championship.
Romain Faivre (Brest)
France Under-21 caps: 4
France Under-21 goals: 2
Favire is one of the more unknown names in the France squad for the European Under-21 Championship. He plays for an unfashionable Brest side, but he has helped transform the Breton outfit from a doughty team into a unit that possesses a touch of class about them.
He was expected to play a fringe role for the club when he signed from Monaco last season, having featured almost exclusively for the reserve team at Stade Louis II.
Instead, his graceful displays saw him immediately become a star of the starting XI and he has got stronger. With a wonderful left foot, he is capable of playing in any of the three attacking midfield positions and has impressed thanks to the quality of his passing, his deft first touch and his all-round technical grace.
Signed for only €650,000 last summer, he has earned four France Under-21 caps since then and has made a mockery of his small fee.
Manchester United have been following his progress along with several other top clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain, and while they may not quite be ready for such a move right now, the European Under-21 Championship will give him another opportunity to showcase his talent to the very best.
When he does move on, it will surely be at a price 10 times or more that at which Brest signed him.