Didier Deschamps knows that a little bit of pragmatism goes a long way in international football - even when some of the continent’s most gifted attacking players are in your squad.

It seems too obvious to suggest that the Euros will be defined by Kylian Mbappe, Real Madrid’s latest prize possession, and Les Bleus’ hopes may instead rely more heavily on a former Arsenal star and the impact of a current Gunner whom Deschamps is not yet entirely sold on.

Olivier Giroud, 37 and still the first-choice centre forward, remains France’s record goalscorer but knows Mbappe will overtake him in the not too distant future.

He has always been a confounding player. Capable of scoring brilliant goals, he has had long barren spells only to continuously produce enough in the build-up to be considered an asset. He has long proven a better fit than the far more prolific Karim Benzema, though the former Real Madrid star’s status was also complicated by well-known off-field issues.

This will be Giroud’s final tournament and after playing his last home game last week, a surprise but ultimately meaningless scoreless draw against Canada, team-mate Antonie Griezmann summed up his impact in eight simple words: “He is the ideal player for a coach.”

At the other end of the pitch and spectrum is William Saliba who, with some justification, told L’Equipe last weekend that of all the Premier League ’s defenders "I think I am in the top three."

His problem is Deschamps might think he is the third best in this squad. Instead Ibrahima Konate is expected to partner Dayot Upamecano… despite calls for Saliba to start.

Deschamps says: “I see him alternating between what I like and that which I like a little less. With France he has had less playing time. The current hierarchy isn’t always favourable for him but he is in contention.”

What Deschamps likes a little less is the perception of Saliba occasionally losing concentration in key moments. But that is something the player himself, again speaking to L’Equipe, thinks has been stamped out of his game in the season just passed. By contrast, Mikel Arteta has taken to describing the centre back as his "mean man."

Saliba added: "We finished with the best defence. I watch a lot of matches. I am a very humble person but last season, just like this season, I was in the top three defenders.

"I need to continue to work to go even higher. In terms of concentration, I am a lot better. Before, I could play a top match but in one phase of play, I slept a bit. That is no longer the case. I am always on alert."

William Saliba considers himself a top-three defender in the Premier League but his France head coach remains unconvinced. (
Image:
Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC)

The squad is packed with familiar names, headlined by Mbappe. Two other Real stars, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, are named in a midfield group including N’Golo Kante, the ex-Chelsea man who received a shock recall having moved to the Saudi league.

Beyond Giroud, Griezmann and Mbappe, the attacking options feature Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele and Marcus Thuram.

But expect the XI on the pitch to play with a degree of caution throughout. Deschamps has learned from past experiences that is best to pick players who fit in a wider system and environment. They are far less flashy than they could be but it has mostly worked.

Their group could be easier but the strength and depth is far greater than Austria, Netherlands and Poland. Evaluating their tournament as a success should only begin by reaching the final.