Tournament experience has been key for both the players and coach Didier Deschamps, who has learnt lessons from the last World Cup in Brazil, where France lost to Germany in the quarterfinal, and the disappointment of missing out on home soil in the European Championship two years ago, Reuters reported.
No more so than on Tuesday as the Frenchmen edged Belgium in the semifinal to put themselves within one game of a second World Cup win, 20 years after their first.
While there were questions asked after a far-from-inspiring start, which included a controversial win over Australia and narrowly beating Peru, France still expectedly secured a knockout round spot early from a first round group where Les Bleus were heavy favorites. They have looked better in each game.
There were, however, no easy rides in the knockout stages where the French had to show its full capability in beating Argentina, Uruguay and then Belgium 1-0 in Tuesday’s semifinal at Saint Petersburg.
“We have prepared well, I can brag a little about that,” laughed Deschamps after securing a place in Sunday’s final in Moscow.
“The older players all played their role as leaders and the youngsters brought their energy. I have a squad with a good blend. They have cohabited happily together.
“No one complains and they all realize the importance of the competition. When there was an opportunity to be seized, they took it.”
There have been many positive aspects to their game. A lack of panic when they were 2-1 down against Argentina in the last-16 before coming back to win a thriller 4-3, and patience in breaking down stubborn Uruguay in the quarterfinals.
Against Belgium on Tuesday, France was watchful and disciplined.
“We have to give a lot of credit to the way France defended, even having certain attacking players defending very deep and giving us a lot of respect in that way,” said opposing coach Roberto Martinez.
Deschamps, who captained France’s only World Cup winning side in 1998, said the march to Sunday’s final has been underpinned by a steely determination.
“There is a spirit in the squad that can move mountains,” he said.
“They are young and they will be even stronger in two and four years’ time.”
'At gates of paradise'
France's march into the World Cup final dominated the nation's headlines on Wednesday, with many already predicting a second title for "Les Bleus" in Moscow, AFP reported.
"The Blue Dream Continues" wrote Le Figaro after a night of celebrations by fans who poured into the streets after the win over Belgium, watched by 19 million according to French broadcaster TF1.
"Didier Deschamps is still on track to join Brazilian legend Mario Zagalle and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer, the only two heros who have reigned over planet football as both player and coach," the broadsheet wrote.
"Les Bleus grabbed the Devils by the tail in a spectacular match," wrote Le Parisien, confident the team is already "at the gates of paradise".
"There's no Zinedine Zidane but a bunch of great players surrounded by good players. It's more of a team, a collective instead of a group gathered around a genius."
Sports daily L'Equipe, hailing the team's "spectacular mastery of the ball and strategy, also said a second "star" was in reach.
"A second star which would propel them into another galaxy, that of repeat world champions, alongside Italy, Uruguay, Brazil, Germany and Argentina," it said.
Papers also lavished praise on Samuel Umtiti, a player more used to blocking goals than scoring the one that knocked Belgium out of the running on Tuesday.
"It's a player who's injured, getting treatment every day since he landed in Russia, who has opened the doors to the finals," wrote Liberation.
President Emmanuel Macron, who attended Tuesday's match, plans to return to Russia for the final with his wife Brigitte on Sunday, his office told AFP on Wednesday.
"We're in the final. Rendez-vous Sunday to bring it home," the president, a football lover, tweeted.