Main menu

Pages

World Cup: France's Deschamps gets no credit but plans to spoil Messi's party in final

Before the fire and brimstone of what feels like France versus the world on Sunday, Didier Deschamps’ mind will drift to thoughts of defeat and the bigger picture.

On the morning of his last two World Cup finals, as a player in 1998 and manager for four years, he remembered the older brother he lost in a plane crash and felt a keen sense that an opportunity that would define his life needed to be taken advantage of.

‘The years passed. Time heals’, he said of how Philippe Deschamps was taken from him and how he, a 19-year-old in Nantes, was left in mourning. ‘But we can’t forget. It happened at Christmas time. You are scarred by it for life, of course. These wounds are indelible.

On Sunday, Didier Deschamps’ mind will stray to thoughts of defeat and the big picture – before the two previous World Cup finals he remembered the older brother he lost

Deschamps hopes to lead France to another world title against Argentina in Qatar on Sunday

Deschamps hopes to lead France to another world title against Argentina in Qatar on Sunday

He hasn’t dwelled on it much beyond a few television interviews, most recently a few months ago, although he seems to carry this personal tragedy to days as significant as this one.

‘It definitely gives me more strength,’ he said. ‘Life takes people away from us, but it gives us even more unsuspected strength. I have a professional destiny, because life has not always been easy. I do everything to get as high as possible.’

That struggle narrative certainly applies to his leadership of the France national team. L’Equipe revealed on Saturday that the French Football Federation are looking to take on Deschamps next month to extend his contract until 2024, although he was unimpressed to have entered this tournament with no strings attached.

France have never won a World Cup without him, but he still struggles with a conservative, utilitarian image, never quite discarding the ‘water carrier’ label Eric Cantona bestowed on him when they played together in the team.

It was noticeable that Arsene Wenger made no allusion to Deschamps in an interview with L’Equipe on Saturday, in which he reflected on the reasons for France’s – more than England’s – success at the World Cups.

Les Bleus have never won the trophy without him, in 1998 and 2018, but the boss has found it difficult to shake off his conservative, utilitarian image or Eric Cantona's 'water carrier' label.

Les Bleus have never won the trophy without him, in 1998 and 2018, but the boss has found it difficult to shake off his conservative, utilitarian image or Eric Cantona’s ‘water carrier’ label.

Deschamps was a tough defensive midfielder, not as talented as Zinedine Zidane (left)

Deschamps was a tough defensive midfielder, not as talented as Zinedine Zidane (left)

‘France know how to win because they’ve already done it. England didn’t win and it’s taking its time,” said Wenger, who suggested that amateur training is better in France than in England. The oversight will not surprise Deschamps, who is unapologetic about not having the aesthetic that some in France seem to want.

‘I was a water carrier. I don’t reject my image,’ he said a few years ago. ‘I didn’t pretend to think I could change a match on my own. Players like me, we’ve done a thankless job.

‘You don’t show a hard tackle or take possession of someone in slow motion on the big screen. But if you add it all up, I’ve always been the one the coaches automatically wrote down on the team sheet.’

One of his mentors, Aimé Jacquet, coach of the 1998 France national team, used to call Deschamps, who measures 1.70 meters tall, ‘Trois Pommes’, after the French expression for someone who is short: ‘As tall as three apples . ‘ But Jacquet also offered a pilot: ‘You’ll never get a bite out of him.’

Many players in the team that faces Argentina on Sunday carried the water pitcher. This is a France with less flair than previous incarnations; plagued by injuries and now a virus, although Raphael Varane, Ibrahima Konate and Kingsley Coman, all beaten by him, all trained on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger made no allusion to Deschamps in an interview on Saturday, in which he reflected on the reasons for France's - more than England's - success at the World Cups.

Arsene Wenger made no allusion to Deschamps in an interview on Saturday, in which he reflected on the reasons for France’s – more than England’s – success at the World Cups.

But the 54-year-old took his imperfect France team to another final at the global tournament

But the 54-year-old took his imperfect France team to another final at the global tournament

The team found a way to win despite periods of danger, as both Poland and England attest.

And now for Argentina, Lionel Messi, and the feeling that it’s written in the stars for them, not France, to add a third World Cup star to their jerseys.

Deschamps applied his usual phlegmatism to the idea that most of the watching world wants Argentina to win.

“I often get that feeling, but I’m fine on my own. It doesn’t bother me,’ said the 54-year-old. ‘These uncertainties always come. We are here and we have done everything to be well prepared.

“I know that Argentina and many people around the world, even some French people too, are rooting for Lionel Messi to win the World Cup – but we will do everything to achieve our goal.

He is tasked with disappointing thousands hoping to see Argentina's Lionel Messi win

He is tasked with disappointing thousands hoping to see Argentina’s Lionel Messi win

‘Argentines are very passionate people. They support the team and that’s positive. It’s good to have such an atmosphere in a World Cup final. But our opponent is not in the crowd, it’s a team we face on the pitch’.

The French will not completely lose support. President Emmanuel Macron’s delegation will include injured duo Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. France also arrives at the Lusail Stadium with its own narrative.

‘Leur Histoire’ (‘Their Story’) headlined Saturday’s memorable cover of L’Equipe, with an image of Olivier Giroud lifting Mbappé alongside the iconic photo of Pelé and Jairzinho in that 1970 pose. complete the first consecutive victories since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

When Mbappé, 19, became the youngest player since 17-year-old Pele to score in a World Cup final four years ago, the Brazilian tweeted to say he might have to dust his boots. To which Mbappé replied: ‘The King will always be the King.’

The 82-year-old coach’s health improved to the point where he could watch the final from his hospital bed. So France also feels the pull of fate.

🇧🇷

Comments