And so it came to a rain-soaked but colourful end. After an absolutely crazy month of football, Les Bleus of France won its second Mundial with a 4-2 win over a Croatian side that gave everything on the pitch.
Didier Deschamps and his conservative tactics were vindicated as the French team (2nd youngest in the tournament) were the most complete unit. Their displays at Russia 2018 were a masterclass in how a team goes through the gears and retains its compact nature in tournament football.
This atones for the painful Euro 2016 extra-time loss to Portugal on home soil.
Now, the talk will move on to see what next this vibrant French side can achieve. Spain's Golden Generation (2008-2012) is the template that this side will need to copy.
The similarities between both teams abound. Lots of talented players coming through youth level (Iker Casillas and Xavi were world champions at the U-20 level for Spain in 1999 ditto for France; Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti, Alphonse Areola and Florian Thauvin in 2013).
Another similarity is the big game experience of the players. Spain in those 4 blissful years had El Clasico core and players playing regular football in other Spanish and English teams as well. The winning mentality they acquired from winning league and UEFA Champions League titles helped the squad under the management of the late Luis Aragones and Deschamps' blood brother in conservative tactics; Vicente del Bosque.
The Russia 2018 French squad has players playing in the highest echelon of world football (Raphael Varane has won 4 UCL titles with Real Madrid at the age of 25) and 11 players in the squad had won a trophy at club level last season.
The talent pool available to Deschamps is frightening, to say the least, and the team looks set for an extended stay at the top of world football.
While captain Hugo Lloris has been generally excellent in goal, he may just have played in his last World Cup. The likes of Alban Lafont (just moved to Serie A to join Fiorentina) and Areola are excellent goalkeepers who can only get better.
France's depth in central defence is scary and a source of envy for other nations. Aymeric Laporte, Abdou Diallo (just joined Borussia Dortmund), Moukhtar Diakhaby (just joined Valencia), Malang Sarr, Dayot Upamecano, Issa Diop (just joined West Ham), Clement Lenglet (new Barcelona defender) are some of the talented, U-25 centre-backs waiting in reserve.
Varane (25), Samuel Umtiti (24) and Presnel Kimpembe (22) were the centre-backs who featured in Russia and look to be the manager's first choice options for the foreseeable future.
Full-back options aren't too shabby either with the 4 chosen for Russia 2018 (Benjamin Mendy, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez and Djibril Sidibe) all under the age of 25. The likes of Lucas Digne, Jordan Amavi, Theo Hernandez, Layvin Kurzawa are waiting in the wings.
Central midfield is another area of strength as Pogba, N'Golo Kante and Corentin Tolisso should still be at the top when Qatar 2022 comes around. Players like Geoffrey Kondogbia, Adrien Rabiot, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Tanguy Ndombele, Lucas Toussart and Morgan Sanson are some midfielders on the edge of the team itching to stake their claims in these most competitive of positions.
The options attacking wise are scary. Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are the standout leaders upfront (Olivier Giroud might also still be in the mix in the near future).
The options to supplement/replace them if need be are almost as tasty: Ousmane Dembele, Florian Thauvin, and Nabil Fekir would be eager to play more important roles in the near future. Those who missed out on the World Cup would also want to show Deschamps what they can do. As such, Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette, Alassane Pléa, Kingsley Coman are some of the attacking options the French have in reserve.
Deschamps has successfully thrown away the old infighting, arrogance, and cliques that used to hold France back (the 2002 and 2006 World Cups were particularly disgraceful).
With the backing of the French Football Federation (FFF) and given the pool of talented players, this might just be the start of Les Bleus' reign as world football's top dogs; basically, the new golden generation that might exceed Spain's legendary accomplishments.Published 16 Jul 2018, 12:22 IST