Paris (AFP) – Didier Deschamps captained France to a World Cup and European Championship double as a player and is now hoping to repeat the feat as coach when the delayed Euro 2020 finally goes ahead in June and July.
However, in an exclusive interview with AFP, the 52-year-old warned against any complacency from the defending world champions, saying major international tournaments are not won “just by clicking your fingers”.
After lifting the World Cup in Russia in 2018, a gifted France squad is inevitably among the favourites to win the European Championship which concludes in London on July 11.
However they could not have asked for a harder group in the first Euro to be held — despite the pandemic — in multiple countries all across the continent.
France play Germany in Munich and Hungary in Budapest, as well as facing the reigning European champions Portugal.
“Two years at the highest level is a long time, even if it is not a lot in life in general. There are obviously big expectations after the success we have had and that is the aim of this squad, of this generation,” Deschamps told AFP in Monaco as he pondered the chances of doing the double.
West Germany held both trophies when they won the 1974 World Cup on home soil after winning the European Championship when it was just a four-nation event in Belgium in 1972.
Spain then pulled off the remarkable feat of winning back to back Euros in 2008 and 2012, either side of their 2010 World Cup triumph.
Before that Deschamps skippered France to glory in 1998 and at Euro 2000 as they defeated Italy in extra time in the final in Rotterdam.
He has gone on to enjoy a remarkable coaching career, having success at Monaco, Juventus and Marseille before accepting the France job in 2012 and reviving the fortunes of the national team in stunning fashion.
– Tough at the top –
A side containing the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba beat Croatia 4-2 in the Moscow final three years ago and is now, Deschamps hopes, hungry for more.
“Nobody can take away what we have done. It will always be there, but we need to tell ourselves that we can’t just stop here, we need to go and try to win more titles,” he said before warning of the looming threat from the likes of England, Spain, Belgium and several other sides at the Euro which kicks off in a month’s time.
“You don’t just win by clicking your fingers. The other nations are progressing, working hard, not sitting still. We need to have that ambition. When a tournament starts we want to go as far as possible.”
France’s first game will be on June 15 against Germany, who had been as close to a sure bet as there is in international football before unravelling at the last World Cup, going out in the group stage.
Since then they have suffered an embarrassing 6-0 defeat by Spain in the Nations League and lost at home to North Macedonia in World Cup qualifying.
Coach Joachim Loew will stand down after the Euro, and their slide is perhaps a warning to the French of what can happen.
“It is very, very difficult to get to the very top, but it is even harder to stay there. You always need to challenge yourself. We can’t go higher, but sometimes there is not much in it to prevent you from dropping away,” Deschamps added.
France have lost just three times in 28 games since the World Cup, despite Deschamps making regular changes in personnel and in playing style.
That has included sometimes abandoning the 4-4-2 formation that was the foundation of their success in Russia for a back three, for example.
“I felt that I had to mix things up. It is not just about surprising the opposition but also about surprising yourself sometimes,” he said.
Deschamps will name his 26-man squad for the Euro next week.
His squad will get together on May 26 and will play friendly matches against Wales in Nice on June 2 and Bulgaria in Paris on June 8 before that mouthwatering opening game against Germany.
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