Young France team looks ahead to Euro 2106
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) There may have been tears as a young France squad made its World Cup exit on Friday, but the players are convinced the experience gained in Brazil will help when their country hosts the European Championship in 2016.
That experience was gained the painful way in a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Germany, with Antoine Griezmann being consoled by teammates as he cried after the final whistle.
Only two France outfield players to appear at this World Cup are more than 29 years old, leaving plenty of room for progression before Euro 2016.
''There's a lot of disappointment in the changing room but there is also a lot to learn from this,'' France captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said. ''It's been a very positive World Cup and I hope it will be a reference point for the years ahead, and notably for Euro 2016 in France.''
Lloris pinpointed a number of factors for his team's defeat to the 2010 semifinalists on a steamy afternoon at the Maracana Stadium.
''It was very hot, then there were the stakes and we lacked a little bit of experience,'' Lloris said. ''This is a very young, very talented team ... and we have to keep this momentum going over the next two years, when we have a lot of friendlies, so that we go into Euro 2016 with great ambitions.''
Those ambitions will be understandably high.
France has won the last two major tournaments which it has hosted - the 1998 World Cup and the 1984 European Championship. From a low point after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when a player strike caused a national outrage, the team's run to the quarterfinals has won back the home fans.
''We're proud of what we have done and I think French people are proud of that too,'' midfielder Paul Pogba said.
The 21-year-old Pogba also believes a bright future lies ahead for the squad coached by Didier Deschamps, saying the Brazil experience would help the players in two years' time.
''It wasn't easy today against a very good team which has a lot of experience, they're often finalists and they have great players at club level,'' he said. ''I think the details made the difference. But today, we've learned and we've grown up.''
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who failed to take a couple of chances in a tightly-contested match, acknowledged that there was a margin for his side to improve.
But he added: ''When you play against the best teams in the world, it's hard.... We are a very young team, it was a first World Cup for most of them and we made it to the quarterfinals. We have to be proud of what we've done.''