Deschamps keeping French Euro 2016 expectations high

Paris (AFP) – France coach Didier Deschamps accepted on Wednesday that Raphael Varane’s injury is a blow to his side’s Euro 2016 hopes, but called on his men to overcome their defensive absences.

The injury to Real Madrid centre-back Varane comes after his first-choice international partner Mamadou Sakho was also ruled out of the tournament following a failed drugs test while playing for club team Liverpool.

The holes left in the middle of the hosts’ back four will likely be filled by Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny, and one of Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu and Sevilla’s Adil Rami.

Deschamps has been set a target of reaching the European Championship semi-finals, but he now has key absences at both ends of the pitch after striker Karim Benzema was left out because of his alleged role in the Mathieu Valbuena sex-tape scandal.

But the 47-year-old, who captained Les Bleus to World Cup glory on home turf in 1998, is still confident in his squad.

“The France team are still competitive and we must do everything we can to go as far as possible,” the head coach said.

“It’s annoying, but I’m not worried. Raphael (Varane) is the player who has played most since the World Cup. But I have confidence in the other players who are there.”

“We must stay competitive. Ambition must remain from the moment we start. We must not lay low and start the competition finding excuses. We are in a complicated situation, but will adapt.”

Deschamps will have the opportunity to assess his options with warm-up friendlies against Cameroon on Monday, and Scotland on June 4.

But he knows the difficulty of the task ahead of him. 

“I can’t work miracles,” he added. “The target is to score goals but we must also be solid defensively.

“We have little time, but we need experience to help us get off on the right foot. Experience can help us find a stopgap. It isn’t too dramatic.”

Rami, who was drafted into the squad as a replacement for Varane, could be given an immediate opportunity to stake his claim for a place in the starting XI, as he is set to play against Cameroon with Mathieu struggling with a calf problem.

Two-time champions France open Euro 2016 against Romania at the Stade de France on June 10, before their other two Group A fixtures with Switzerland and finals debutants Albania.

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