Euro 2016 has transcended football and united France during difficult times, making captain Hugo Lloris all the more determined to give his compatriots a victory to savour.
Didier Deschamps’ men are looking to follow in the footsteps of the 1984 European Championship-winning side and 1998 World Cup squad by making home advantage count and lifting the trophy on Sunday.
Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal stand in their way at the Stade de France – a ground that 240 days earlier was targeted by terrorists during a sickening night of attacks across Paris.
Three bombs were detonated near the ground as France faced Germany in a friendly, killing the bombers and a bystander on a November night when 130 died in a city still reeling from attacks 10 months earlier.
The threat of more trouble lingers but Euro 2016 has so far been a chance to escape, and captain Lloris knows how much glory on Sunday would mean to the country.
“Of course we’ve had some very tough times this year, both with those tragic events but also with events that have gone on off the field,” the Tottenham goalkeeper said.
“But we’re even prouder to be on the pitch, to really feel the entire French population behind us, to feel this happiness which is really shared between the players and the French people.
“That gives us greater strength, it’s lovely to see, but we still have that final step to take to really finish this competition in the best possible fashion.
“I think the French people really needed to escape via this competition and sport has this strength to bring people together, to unite people.
“You can see that very clearly – we can see that because we are currently experiencing it.
“But we still have one step to take. It’s certainly the hardest one, but it’s well worth it to finish in a good way.”
Les Bleus head into the final buoyed by Thursday’s 2-0 semi-final win against world champions Germany in Marseille.
Lloris believes that display underlined their improving maturity and, while rejecting the notion his team are favourites against Portugal, reckons the future looks bright under coach Deschamps.
It is a far cry from the dark days endured just six years ago, when players went on strike in protest at the French Football Federation’s decision to send home Nicolas Anelka following a bust-up with coach Raymond Domenech.
France managed just one point and a goal in that miserable World Cup campaign in South Africa, but those rows and resignations have cleared the path for the run to the final at Euro 2016.
“Clearly we went through a crisis in French football, but we’ve been able to really pick ourselves up from that crisis,” Lloris, part of the squad in South Africa, said.
“We have overcome things. It wasn’t easy but, step by step, we’ve been able to go through that process.
“The FFF deserves a lot of credit for that, as do the players and the head coaches that have taken charge of the French national side.
“But putting together a great team takes a lot of time. If you look at recent times with the Spaniards or indeed the Germans, you can’t have success overnight.
“You can’t simply buy time and experience, but (on Sunday) we have the chance to make history within French football.
“It is a unique opportunity in a player’s career. You need to make the most of that.
“Our minds will guide us (on Sunday) in our efforts. We’ll try and give 100 per cent and have no regrets when we step off at the end of the match.”