LA GRANDE MOTTE, France, May 31 (Reuters) – Whatever the outcome of Euro 2004 for defending champions France, the tournament will mark the end of the generation brought to life by coach Aime Jacquet.
In the space of 10 years, the team, arguably the best France has ever produced, wrote the brightest and the darkest pages of French soccer’s story under Jacquet and his successor Roger Lemerre.
They became the first side to clinch the World Cup and the European Cup in succession before they experienced one of the biggest failures in World Cup history.
The generation emerged when Jacquet was named to replace the sacked Gerard Houllier after France were eliminated by Bulgaria in their last qualifying match for the 1994 World Cup finals.
Jacquet comprehensively reshuffled the team and imposed a very defensive tone, convinced that avoiding conceding goals was just as important as finding the way to the net.
The story of the generation began with a 1-0 victory over Italy in Naples 10 years ago and it will end in Portugal next month, under Lemerre’s successor Jacques Santini.
There is little doubt that captain Marcel Desailly, who will turn 36 in September, is leading the last campaign of his international career.0