Bacary Sagna: We lost the support of the French public after 2010 but now it's back
Bacary Sagna says that European Championships glory would be a reward for the hard work involved in rebuilding French football's image after the disastrous World Cup in South Africa.
French shame was a major theme of that 2010 tournament. After qualifying for the competition courtesy of Thierry Henry's handball against Ireland in Paris, Raymond Domenech's side were eliminated at the group stage following a turbulent stay.
The nadir was when the players refused to train and rowed in front of the cameras following the decision to send Nicolas Anelka home for attacking Domenech at half-time in a loss to Mexico.
A series of resignations failed to get the public back on side and regaining their full support has been a slow process. But Sagna, a survivor of that fraught campaign, feels that they achieved that ahead of tomorrow's final with Portugal at the Stade de France.
"We left a negative image of French football around the world," said the Manchester City defender. "We had to go back to basics and try and get the public with us.
"We've done a great deal of work to be there six years later in the final and we really want to put a smile on the French people's face and present a different image of the team.
"Clearly, we went through a crisis. We can't erase what happened in the past. We have to look forward and it wasn't easy but, step by step, we've been able to go through that process. The French Football Federation deserve a lot of credit, as do the players and head coaches.
"Putting together a great team takes a lot of time. If you look in recent times - at the Spaniards and Germans - you can't have success overnight. You can't buy time and experience. But now we have a chance to make history, a unique opportunity, and we need to make the most of it."
France coach Didier Deschamps spent most of the pre-match press conference fielding questions about man of the moment Antoine Griezmann.
His six goals have put the hosts on the brink of glory and Deschamps was asked about the tactical switch during the win over Ireland that moved the Atletico Madrid to the centre and turned the game. "He is now playing in a position he's familiar with but he's capable of playing in another role if I think it's better for the team," he said, refusing requests to discuss what his approach might be tomorrow.
This morning's edition of L'equipe was dominated by reportage of Griezmann's exploits and it was put to the coach that the 25-year-old could become a contender for this year's Ballon D'or.
"I want to talk about us winning the European Championships," replied Deschamps, "So far there's only been two candidates (for Ballon D'or), Ronaldo and Messi, but if he can be among the candidates than that's a sign that things will have gone well tomorrow.
"He had a very busy campaign. His last game was the Champions League final and he had to digest that loss. I tried to give him a bit of a breather over the first three matches but he's a talented, clinical player and that's very important for the team."