Bland Les Bleus have neutrals feeling blue: Richard Buxton
Same old ultra-conservatism from same old France coach, with minor tweaks
France steadfastly refuse to laugh in the face of the "Group of Death" at Euro 2020.
They instead shrug ambivalently at their latest quest to dominate international football.
A narrow 1-0 victory over Germany yesterday morning (Singapore time) underlined just how little has changed since Les Bleus were crowned world champions three years ago.
At heart, they are still the same team that reached the pinnacle of the global game through a succession of uninspiring performances often bordering on joylessness. Only minor personnel tweaks distinguish them from their inglorious predecessors of 2018.
Even by their own perfunctory standards, Didier Deschamps' side threaten to win over far less hearts and minds at this summer's Finals than they gained in Russia.
The scoreline in their opening Group F encounter at Munich's Allianz Arena did not belie the visitors' dominance as much as it ultimately flattered a below-par Die Mannschaft.
Mats Hummels' unfortunate first-half own goal stole the headlines, yet it was no less than France truly deserved from a match where they had assumed near-total control.
Deschamps' game plan possessed all the hallmarks of a classic counter-attacking team; lulling Germany into a false sense of security by soaking up the pressure and routinely punishing their exuberance with lightning breaks from the irrepressible Kylian Mbappe.
Paris Saint-Germain's speed demon frequently left both fellow World Cup winner Hummels and defensive partner Matthias Ginter trailing in his wake, during foot races which evolved into the most one-sided contest since the Tortoise and the Hare.
BURST OF PACE
Mbappe's bursts of pace were a timely reminder of the quality that his team possess in abundance but seldom unleash at major international tournaments.
Paul Pogba's domineering presence in midfield, too, will leave Manchester United fans scratching their heads as to why their record signing appears transformed wearing the royal blue shirt while looking out of sorts when sporting the Red Devils' colours.
In truth, partnering one of elite-level football's most in-form players in N'Golo Kante offers greater freedom to France's unofficial captain's creativity than he has at Old Trafford, where Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic remain on a heavy rotation.
The Chelsea enforcer produced a display which Deschamps would have been proud to call his own during a star-studded playing career as a self-deprecating water carrier.
Still, the former midfielder continues to treat his all-star squad with ultra-conservatism; making audible touchline demands for them to "attack, but not too much".
That approach reflects the slow-burning openings France made to the last World Cup and Euro 2016 with 2-1 wins over Australia and Romania respectively.
It served them incredibly well on both occasions, faltering only in the final of Euro 2016 as they came unstuck against holders and Group F rivals Portugal.
Deschamps' stoic methodology may not produce the same pleasing level of aesthetic as other nations at these Finals, but the measure of its success cannot be called into question.
France's coach was never going to allow his side to swagger willingly towards the July 11 showpiece, despite long being installed as overwhelming pre-tournament favourites.
Combining grit and grind and a very occasional sprinkling of stardust is a proven route to success.
Expect more of the same between now and a date with destiny at Wembley.