ST PETERSBURG, July 14, 2018 (News Wires) - A firm hand on the tiller for France comes not only from captaining a World Cup-winning team 20 years ago, but also from some harsh lessons in Didier Deschamps' six years as coach.
Unfairly derided as a "water carrier" in his playing days in the French midfield, Deschamps has proven both innovative and brave as coach, and is now one victory away from joining an elite club.
Only Brazil´s Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer have won the World Cup as both a player and a coach. Deschamps will join them if his team win Sunday´s final against Croatia in Moscow.
His six years in charge have provided not only a French record 52 wins in 82 matches but also see him deal with the bitter disappointment of defeat at home in Paris to Portugal in the 2016 European Championship final plus the storm over Karim Benzema´s suspension.
Deschamps was accused of racism and had graffiti to that effect scrawled on the wall of his house after Benzema was kicked out of the team over a sex tape scandal, but making bold decisions has been a hallmark of his tenure.
Paul Pogba was dropped during the last World Cup in Brazil, Samuel Umtiti brought in during EURO-2016, and in Russia two inexperienced fullbacks were chosen from the start of the tournament.
The fact that only nine players have survived from the EURO-2016 squad shows a steely streak, with Deschamps not hesitating to offer a chance to players with potential. Kylian Mbappe would seem obvious, but Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard on the flanks now looks inspired.
For Deschamps, who turns 50 in October, much is about a family atmosphere. Mobile phones are banned when the players eat together, and efforts to build team spirit are a top priority.
A PlayStation world cup, complete with group phases and subsequent knockout rounds, is among the activities to take the players´ minds off the football while keeping the competitive juices flowing.
Tactics and formations have changed too, but always predicated on a solid defence.
"He deserves all the credit," said captain Hugo Lloris after the semi-final success over Belgium.
"He is the one who develops the game plans. This victory is his. We applied to the letter what he asked us to do."
"We need a coach who gives us his confidence, who knows how to approach the games," added Antoine Griezmann.
"Since the beginning of the competition he has got it right, and I hope it will be the same for the final," he said.
Win or lose on Sunday, Deschamps will be staying in the job, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said this week, pointing out that his contract still has two years to run.
MOSCOW, July 11, 2018 (News Wires) - France coach Didier Deschamps hailed the character of his young team after they beat Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday to set up a World Cup final against either England or Croatia in Moscow.
Samuel Umtiti's 51st-minute header at St Petersburg Stadium sent the French into the final, where they will be seeking their second win since 1998 - when Deschamps captained them on home soil.
"It was exceptional," Deschamps said in a pitchside interview.
"I'm very happy for my players, we showed character and the right mentality, it was very hard for us tonight. We worked hard defensively.
"We had to take advantage a bit more in the counter attacks. but congratulations to my players and my staff. I feel very proud for my group," said Deschamps, who is aiming to join Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil's Mario Zagallo as the only men to have won the World Cup as both a player and a manager.
"Forty-nine days together, it is a lot of things, difficult things, the group stage, it is the merit of everyone."
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was also proud of his players despite the defeat.
"Unfortunately for us the difference was a dead-ball situation. The game was very close, very tight and it was going to be decided by a little bit of luck in front of goal," said the Spaniard.
"I thought the attitude of the players was magnificent and I couldn't ask for any more. The players gave everything and were pushing until the last second to get back in the game.
"That's the detail you get in the semifinal of the World Cup.
"We're disappointed, we wanted to get into the final, we need to put this behind us and look forward to the next game. We need to go out on a real high, these players deserve that."
Goalscorer Umtiti said the win had come on the back of the work of the entire team.
"A lot of pride," said the defender. "We worked hard ... I scored but we delivered a good match and I'm very proud of everyone. They worked in '98 and we worked today, we reached out target to get to the final, I'm very satisfied."
Meanwhile, a wave of euphoria swept across France late on Tuesday and a nation of ardent soccer fans began dreaming of World Cup glory after Les Bleus defeated Belgium 1-0 to reach the final.
Delirious supporters draped in the Tricolor flag spilt on to Parisian boulevards as the blare of car horns reverberated through the French capital.
In a fan zone outside City Hall on the banks of the River Seine, jubilant supporters embraced and lit smoke flares.
"I'm totally blown away, this is crazy," said 41-year-old Gilles Rove in Paris' Belleville neighbourhood. "Nobody believed this could happen at the beginning of the World Cup, but this team has really shown something in recent weeks.
"This team gives me goosebumps, even more so than the team of 1998," he added, in reference to the last time France won the World Cup, on home soil against Brazil 20 years ago.
Tens of thousands of fans poured on to the Champs Elysees as bars, cafes and restaurants enjoyed a bumper evening of revelry after the World Cup equivalent of a local derby, a match between neighbours with a heavy dose of national rivalry and friendly banter flowing in the run-up.
"We're going to the final, we're going to the final," scores chanted in one central Paris bar before breaking out into an impromptu rendition of the La Marseillaise national anthem.
"A Duel Between Friends" France's Journal du Dimanche had declared, with a cartoon on the front page taken from the comic book "Asterix in Belgium", when the plucky Gauls encounter a rival tribe from across the border.
Some French fans were already looking forward to a possible final clash against long-time rivals England, who play Croatia in the second semifinal on Wednesday.
"Our unfortunate Belgian cousins were just not quite good enough. But it was Europe which won, and it would be amusing if we were to beat the English," said 45-year-old Francois Garnier who watched the game near the Eiffel Tower.
In St Petersburg, ecstatic French fans sang their way out of the stadium, relishing the prospect of a final against England or Croatia.
Belgium fans filed quietly out of the arena, but remained proud in defeat after their first semifinal appearance since 1986.
"Today we were a little bit unlucky, but it could have been the both sides (who could win) so we played well. I am happy that I came here and now we will go for the third place," Belgium fan Patrick Robert Wouters said.
"I am proud of my team," he added.
France won in front of President Emmanuel Macron, who went down to the players' dressing-room after the match.
Asked what Macron told the players, Les Bleus young forward Kylian Mbappe told TF1: "He said he would come back for the final, to see us with the cup."
PARIS, May 4, 2018 (News Wires) - France coach Didier Deschamps has postponed the announcement of his World Cup squad until after the Europa League final to help the French players involved in the game.
The French football federation says the decision was made "in order not to disturb the preparations of the French players from Marseille and Atletico Madrid."
Marseille advanced to its first European final in 14 years by beating Salzburg on Thursday while Atletico defeated Arsenal.
Several Marseille players, including Steve Mandanda, Florian Thauvin, Dimitri Payet, Adil Rami and Bouna Sarr, have a chance to be included in Deschamps' squad, while Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann is all but guaranteed to travel to Russia.
The French federation says Deschamps will announce his selection on May 17, a day after the Europa League final in Lyon.