Does Didier Deschamps still have his hand? No one is asking this question today when the French team will be last in the League of Nations halfway through the group. Many asked this question a year ago after the euro failed. After the summer she hung out again. And even in the middle of autumn. Then everything came together. A new trophy for revenge, an early qualification for the World Cup – not exactly a French tradition – and the feeling that the coach had put his Blues back on track.
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” A little ? “, resumed amusedly, “DD” as we met him in Clairefontaine at the start of the rally, four days before Denmark interrupted a run of seven wins (1-2). The clouds of June naturally cast a dull veil over this season and force another rebound against Croatia tomorrow. But not enough to hide the roster’s recovery, both on the ground and in life, while the violent departure from the Euro’s road ported to a tumultuous future. Five months before the World Cup in Qatar, France is again one of the favorites for its own succession. Six from the end of his contract, Didier Deschamps too. A decade in office, and he would see himself extending to 2024.
Staff renewal and trust
Showing he still had the strength and desire was the goal of meeting Noël Le Graët on July 7, 2021 in Guingamp, nine days after the Swiss comeback. “Maybe the president couldn’t feel determined or even want to change me,” Deschamps rewinds. In the meantime, the coach had taken “the necessary step back”had isolated himself to have “the clearest analysis possible”† From the outside, the euro left a sense of improvisation and broken unity. The two men agree on the statement of the accident: a “set of little things” (chicken raised, heat wave, injuries, closed vacuum, etc.) have led to “ten minutes of distraction” in the round of 16.
In the summer, DD consults. “I wanted to have elements related to the players, to their feelings, by taking them into account.” The exchanges confirm his diagnosis: this team is not dead. “I know, and we have realized it again: without result everything is questioned, he continues. Insignificant details take up incredible space. I am the only one responsible. † Suppose everything, this is the meaning of his first official announcement, in The team† Listening to this close to a Blues manager, it was also that of the speech at the hotel in Bucharest on the night of the elimination: you cut, I stay in the front line and we will see each other again at the beginning of the school year , he had said before being applauded.
Instead of using a fuse, as he had, the coach decided to renew all his staff. “I had faith, the idea was to remobilize everyone”, Deschamps formulates without going into details. A way to invite questions? Messages are passed on. Various sources indicate that Bachir Nehar, subject of tensions during the tournament, was thus reformulated; since the beginning of the school year he has been supported by another steward. The appointment for the first meeting is brought forward to register the failure and restart the machine. Words are good, reunion ends in petanque.
Eleven first selections this season
However, the euro had two victims. The director-general of the FFF, Florence Hardouin, is dismissed from the delegation after a quick audit by Le Graët, even though this is not the official version. Then there’s Olivier Giroud. The second-best scorer in Blues history pays for the group’s oxygenation on the grounds that the degradation of a framework, whatever it is, weighs on the collective; the feud with Kylian Mbappé in preparation also came into play. For him, as for others, Deschamps does not close the door: although complicated, a return to the World Cup remains possible, as was the case in March in the absence of Karim Benzema. The idea of the coach and his staff is to see people and give them time. From Aurélien Tchouaméni and Théo Hernandez, who have made a name for themselves, to Boubacar Kamara and Ibrahima Konaté, based in Austria on Friday (1-1), via Jonathan Clauss and Christopher Nkunku, rewarded for their consistency at the beginning of spring , brought eleven players take out their first cap this season.
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The main problem will have been the switch to a three-man defense in order to put the front trio in the best conditions: Mbappé, Benzema and Antoine Griezmann – the staff ensures that the latter is not separated from the other two, even if his level suffers under the equation. Despite the failure of this formula against Switzerland, Deschamps believes in it. So much so that he relied on it during the high-pressure game against Finland (2-0) after two draws in line with the European Championship (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ukraine). A bold choice in a stormy context he makes “with complete peace of mind, convinced that this is the best solution”† And to argue: “The situation meant I reused it there, but I already had it in mind. I’ve been doing it for a long time [contre l’Albanie en 2019] and I could have done it in some matches at the European Championship. I didn’t just knock it out against Switzerland either. †
But then he changed his plans at halftime as, led even by two Belgium goals in the Final 4 (3-2), he maintains his organization. “Because the, he justifies, I was convinced that it was not a system problem, but an animation problem. † Ditto in the final against Spain, which has long displaced France (2-1). While defensive solidity was the foundation of the 2018 coronation, Deschamps now accepts “have a slightly greater imbalance”, convinced that this option will put the opponent most at risk. “Copy and paste what led us to become world champions, can that work? It is possible, but it is not certain. I’ve always been open, I know there are things that we know, where the players feel good, but it’s not necessarily staying there that we can keep winning. †
“Winning at a very high level is very difficult, he continues. Keeping winning is all the more important. Reflecting, I’m not going to say it’s a lot higher, but it’s not easy. The credit goes to the players, because there was an awareness. † The coach has mastered the function too well to draw definitive conclusions. “The Truth of the Moment”distrust. “The Italians are a good example: they are European champions, it is their truth. I watch of course. It proved them right in the summer. Four months later…” Italy will miss its second World Cup in a row, while France registered its attendance, the seventh in a row, on the night of a festival against Kazakhstan (8-0). He knows it doesn’t take much to reverse a trend, which the last three games without a win confirm. “When things go well, things don’t go so well; if things are bad, things are not very bad” pronounces the one who says himself “impervious to everything and focused on what happens inside”.
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Despite the paving in the pond launched by Kylian Mbappé on the topic of collective image rights, the rally in March confirmed exactly the positive signals seen internally since the start of the school year. Players and staff extend the pleasure of sitting at the table together, which was not the case at the European Championship. The quality of the training amazes the management. “This has been the case for years, Deschamps delays. There used to be a bigger difference between the 23. Today they can all start. † In the spring, de Lensois Clauss scored points with his benign naivety and his strong character to return the whistles to Lille. Without closing the debate about the shortcomings on the correct piston position. Or on defensive reliability.
At the start of the international window in June, the last four lines of a crowded calendar, the coach was wary of good vibes. “When things go well, I always remain very attentive: we know all too well that it only takes a grain of sand to get rid of things, he told us. We anticipate it. Because if we’re in the response, it’s already too late. It is not necessary to have a plan A and a plan B, but to have a C and a D in stock. † After Denmark (which he missed to attend his father’s funeral) and his procession of dangers (like Varane, Kanté left the group injured; Lucas Hernandez also before “A Happy Event”), thus Deschamps brought the defense up to four instead of digging the season’s tactical imprint as planned. Echoing his mantra: adaptation. As a reminder, in 2018 he had found his side during the opening match and the game system to go from one end to the other…