‘Di­dier knows all there is to know’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

DI­DIER DESCHAMPS has let his hair go grey nat­u­rally since the last time he picked up a Euro­pean ti­tle 16 years ago.

The diminu­tive Deschamps was never a spectacular player and does not be­long to the Jose Mour­inho school of coach­ing with sen­sa­tional sound bites. But the unglam­orous French­man with the twangy voice has been in­stru­men­tal in tak­ing the host na­tion through to to­mor­row’s Euro 2016 fi­nal against Portugal.

The big oc­ca­sion at the Stade de France will not spook Deschamps. He cap­tained France to both their World Cup tri­umph in the same sta­dium in 1998 and again when they won the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship two years later in Rot­ter­dam.

He was the captain, too, when Olympique Mar­seille be­came the first French club – and the only one to this day – to win the Cham­pi­ons League in 1993 in Mu­nich.

“The fact he has won ev­ery­thing go­ing is the ad­van­tage that he brings us,” said at­tack­ing mid­fielder Dim­itri Payet. “He knows ex­actly what it takes to win.”

A worka­holic mid­fielder with lead­er­ship qual­i­ties in his play­ing days, Deschamps has a prag­matic ap­proach to coach­ing, sim­i­lar to that of 1998 World Cup- win­ning coach Aime Jac­quet.

“He’s been in this sit­u­a­tion as a captain with me, and I can as­sure you he’s con­trol­ling ev­ery­thing per­fectly be­hind closed doors,” Jac­quet said of Deschamps in an in­ter­view with Fifa. “Di­dier knows all there is to know.”

Deschamps showed his de­ci­sion-mak­ing qual­i­ties be­fore the tour­na­ment started. He left out Karim Ben­zema af­ter the striker was em­broiled in an al­leged black­mail scan­dal, and did not even con­sider for­ward Franck Ribery af­ter he hinted he could be will­ing to come back.

“My aim was not to pick the best 23 play­ers but to go for a group ca­pa­ble of go­ing very far in the tour­na­ment to­gether,” the France coach said af­ter nam­ing his squad.

Deschamps has done ev­ery­thing right, mak­ing shrewd tac­ti­cal changes and rais­ing his voice with per­fect tim­ing. He kept tin­ker­ing with his team, try­ing out dif­fer­ent play­ers and sys­tems un­til find­ing the right for­mula – a 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion with Antoine Griez­mann play­ing close to Olivier Giroud up front. There were some gam­bles, such as his de­ci­sion to drop Griez­mann and Paul Pogba to the bench against Al­ba­nia. It all paid off.

Bring­ing the best out of each player, he man­aged to turn a col­lec­tion of big egos into a fo­cused out­fit show­ing plenty of sol­i­dar­ity on and off the pitch.

The suc­cess of the Deschamps method was ob­vi­ous in Thursday’s 2-0 semi-fi­nal win over Ger­many. Not only did Griez­mann live up to ex­pec­ta­tions by scor­ing twice but the French de­fence – re­garded as their weak­est point – was solid un­der sus­tained pres­sure.

“That vic­tory be­longs to the play­ers but it’s not over yet. There’s still one match to go”, Deschamps said be­fore de­liv­er­ing maybe his most im­por­tant mes­sage to his play­ers, on what it means to wear the France colours.

“That France shirt is the best thing that hap­pened to me,” he said. “Wear­ing it gives you a great re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Maybe it was not always the case but th­ese play­ers fully re­alise it and that makes me ever so proud.” – Reuters

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