France's championship window is over - Kylian Mbappe will never win with Les Bleus again

  • France were knocked out of Euro 2024 by Spain
  • Kylian Mbappe struggled for form during the tournament
  • Why France's Euro 2024 exit feels like the end of the nation's winning cycle
It's over
It's over / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Endings in sport don’t really exist. 

Or they’re at least not as definitive as a movie, a book or a TV show ending is. Nor are they as clear cut. 

In sport, a multitude of endings occur at the same time as a multitude of stories are beginning, and all while a multitude of stories are barely half-way done.

Or in other words:

They're very complicated.

France’s 2-1 defeat to Spain in the Euro 2024 semi-finals felt like a typically complicated sports ending. As the defeat for France was, in many ways, a multitude of endings, beginnings, and stories hitting their mid-way points all simultaneously.

Endings wise, the most obvious one was that it was the end of France's Euro 2024 campaign. By losing the semi-final they were knocked out of the competition...because that's how these things work...and you knew that already. 

A similarly obvious ending was that of Didier Deschamps' tenure as Les Bleus coach.

After 12 years and 159 games in charge, despite winning a FIFA World Cup and guiding his nation to three international tournament finals, French football fans are explicitly at wits end with Deschamps’ overtly negative tactical set-up (sound familiar, England fans?).

Didier Deschamps
Time to go / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

With Zinedine Zidane waiting in the wings and willing to take over, it's the right time for the FFF to pull the trigger and replace their long-serving manager. 

Another ending was that of Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud’s tournament footballing careers. 

The pair have, in many ways, been the defining players of their generation for France. 

While Griezmann has been the creative beating heart of Les Bleus either in midfield or out wide, Giroud has been the man who has linked everything together and made the nation’s attacking lineup tick up top.

France’s 2-1 defeat to Spain felt like a multitude of beginnings too.

Euro 2024 has ushered in William Saliba as the new leader of the France defence. The Arsenal man, after not even being tipped to start for his nation pre-tournament, has been the best centre-back in Germany this summer, and is now all set to lead the backline for the next decade. 

William Saliba
Top talent / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

Bradley Barcola’s emergence has been a huge positive too. The youngster was utterly electric out on the left flank when he was introduced in the second half against Spain on Tuesday. 

21-year-old Eduardo Camavinga proved to be a bright spark in the defeat, showing that he’s twice the athlete and technical footballer that Adrien Rabiot is during his 30 minute cameo at the Allianz Arena. 

France’s 2-1 defeat to Spain was also the mid-way point of other stories. 

The France careers of the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Adrien Rabiot and Theo Hernandez are all far from over - although many fans perhaps wish they were after their desperate performances in Germany. 

And although he’s already the nation’s captain, second all-time top goalscorer, a World Cup champion, and scored the same number of World Cup goals as Pele (in two less tournaments), Euro 2024 very much falls within the second act of Kylian Mbappe’s France career. 

In the second act of stories, something usually goes horribly wrong for the protagonist, and it's fair to say that the Euros has been that 'something' for Mbappe.

After breaking his nose in matchday one, the superstar forward looked completely off the boil throughout the remainder of the competition - struggling to make an impact with or without his protective mask on.

Many will point to Mbappe's performances at Euro 2024 as being 'off-colour' or 'down to his facial injury', but worryingly it was perhaps derivative of the stories that are ending outweighing those that are just beginning for Les Bleus.

For while the likes of Barcola, Saliba, Marcus Thuram, Randal Kolo Muani and Camavinga are all impressing in the infancy of their France careers, none of them are what the nation, and Mbappe, really needs:

Like-for-like replacements for the outgoing Griezmann and Giroud.

Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud
Two all-time great France internationals / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages

With Griezmann and Giroud as largely peripheral figures throughout Euro 2024, France were explicitly less potent in forward areas than they have been at previous tournaments.

The fact that they registered one goal that was scored by a French player in open play throughout the whole of Euro 2024 is proof of that. Giroud scored 4x that tally alone during the 2022 World Cup, while Mbappe netted 6x that number.

France's attacking lineup has been a finely balanced eco-system since Mbappe burst onto the scene. While a generationally gifted player, the forward relies on specific types of players that can allow him time and space to perform at his peak levels.

Griezmann performed the role of finding Mbappe when he wanted to utilise his pace to burst in behind defensive units. Giroud performed the role of feeding the ball to Mbappe when he wanted to come short, or when he wanted to drift out wide and dink the ball into the penalty area - where Giroud would invariably be on hand to head home.

Looking through the list of players in the first act of their Les Bleus careers in 2024, it's hard to see who can do those jobs and allow Mbappe to play his best at international level.

And without that, France don't seem to have a route to tournament finals again in the near future - especially when Spain, Germany and England are all as young and full of talent as they are.

Endings in sport are complicated.

Endings in sport are composites of first, second and third acts of a multitude of stories all running simultaneously at different speeds.

France's Euro 2024 defeat to Spain, however, felt more like an ending than a beginning.

The ending of a golden chapter in the nation's international footballing history. And potentially the ending of Mbappe's cycle of winning with Les Bleus.