One of the underrated joys at the start of a tournament is circling around the teams to see how good everyone is, but the best have probably been saved until last.
France is not underestimated. This victory over Germany showed precisely why most people predicted rather boringly that they would be champions.
They can even make the Euro 2020 finals rather boring – or at least an anti-climax – because there is at least the threat that they could win it at a gallop.
The world champions certainly seemed to have a few more gears to jump through to secure a resounding victory over another supposedly top-tier team.
The reality is that France are looking a few levels above Germany – and it could have been a few more goals if Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema hadn’t been so enthusiastic – and at least a step or two ahead of the Portugal, England and Italy.
Benzema’s comeback didn’t even have to do much. It’s something else that they can save for later when it’s needed.
This does not necessarily mean that the French themselves are boring. They offer moments of beauty and euphoria, especially through the divine passes of Paul Pogba and the rhythm of Mbappé.
This attack in full counterattack is joyful. It was close to a football tragedy, Mbappe strayed offside for his own finish as everyone watching surely made the same purring sound of appreciation when he walked in.
France seems to have evolved to an attack level, as of 2018. There is a deeper level of integration, and perhaps a greater sense of self-expression. Pogba was weaving his right foot like a brush.
It all still comes from the same basic block, however. They are so solid in the center. It feels like there is just too much to overcome for any opposition, which is why it was so surprising that Germany hadn’t gone further sooner.
They only add to Jogi Loew’s questions, but they’re not the only team fighting for solutions against France.
Raphael Varane and Presnel Kimpembe have met almost everything that is happening to them with authority. If they didn’t, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez were ready to back down.
If there was a loophole somehow emerging after that, N’Golo Kante – of course – was there to fill it.
Is there a player in world football who seems such a guarantee of success as the Chelsea midfielder. Having him on your team is having a team a few levels better than it would be. It makes a team almost impervious.
And that’s going to be a problem for everyone. France is so hard to hit, but will always create just enough chances to hurt you, with more than enough quality to take them. Pogba’s majesty and Antoine Griezmann’s conduct here just forced Mats Hummels to make a mistake.
The Germans were unlucky at the rear in terms of grassroots organization, but it looked even worse against the French.
This is another quality of Didier Deschamps’ team. They will make fewer mistakes than you.
It’s going to go even further in the more repressed world of international football, compared to club play.
For anyone still in doubt, you should be able to see now why Gareth Southgate almost wants to make an English version of France. This is what wins modern competitions.
The quality of the French is even more relevant for England at the moment, as they will face whoever finishes second in this group in the likelihood of winning their group.
It used to be that it didn’t matter Germany, France or Portugal that Southgate’s side would get in the round of 16, and that they would have to face them sooner or later. This game proved to be a mistake.
France is a level above. If you want a long tournament, you really want to avoid them. This might be your best chance against them too, in one game after a month of football.
France seems capable of sailing there though, as they are a combination of an all-terrain four-by-four and a Ferrari.
They have it all. They seem ready to win it all again.
We have now seen all the teams at Euro 2020. We have not seen anyone as good as France.
© Independent press service