France manager Didier Deschamps' decision to go to Brazil with a roster of team-first players - and not the fractured collective of stars who exited the 2010 tournament in a cloud of infighting - appears to have paid dividends. France sits atop Group E with six points following two convincing wins.
One player who's taking particular pleasure in France's success is Mathieu Valbuena. The 5-foot-6, 29-year-old midfielder made the team ahead of the more talented but far more unstable Samir Nasri, and he has made the most of his opportunity.
Valbuena's role with the team may be extra sweet because of who isn't there: namely, Nasri and Franck Ribery (who's out with a back injury).
Though Nasri and Ribery are undeniably two of France's most talented players, they aren't always great teammates. According to Valbuena, the two ganged up on him earlier in his career when they were all at Marseille, mocking him for his diminutive stature.
“When I see them at the national side get-togethers, I prefer to make light of what went on because the story is over,” Valbuena said last year, via The National.
“Despite it being over, I still have a bad memory of what went on. To be systematically singled out for bad jokes really hurts.
“Nobody else in the dressing room would have put up being targeted like I was. I was not ready to be subjected to that. I was too nice, but I am now made of harder stuff.”