France defender Raphael Varane has said his team-mates are ready to take “more responsibility” after the disappointment of defeat in the Euro 2016 final.
Les Bleus take on Italy in a friendly on Thursday before their World Cup qualifying campaign gets under way against Belarus next week, and Varane is expected to captain the side in the absence of injured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The Real Madrid centre-back missed Euro 2016 due to a thigh injury and could only watch on as his countrymen fell short on home soil in the showpiece against Portugal, but he offered a positive assessment of Didier Deschamps’ young squad ahead of their return to action in Bari.
“This is a team that continues to mature and evolve,” Varane told a pre-match news conference.
“The group is still young but has a lot of potential. Since my return, it has not changed too much in general but I see players taking more responsibility, who speak more.
“Having played an international competition is definitely a plus.”
Reflecting on his own comeback, he added: “Missing the Euro was a big disappointment. This is something I want to leave behind me to come back stronger.
“My absence has not changed my relationship with my team-mates and the coach. I have my bearings.”
France will face Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria and Luxembourg as well as Belarus in World Cup qualifying Group A, and Varane believes the experience of reaching a major tournament final will stand Deschamps’ men in good stead throughout the campaign.
When asked whether their opponents would view France differently following their achievements in the Euros, the 23-year-old said: “Maybe. A good run is always good. It helps us to wear the colours of the France team.
“With respect to our opponents, I think they have always considered us a good team internationally.
“The goal now is to try to prepare for the World Cup.”