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Sport

Deschamps embarks on quest to restore France to former glory

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2012-08-16

Didier Deschamps has stepped into one of football's most prestigious yet testing jobs: coaching a national team. Fans hope the new French manager can rejuvenate an unconvincing team plagued by recent disappointments and scandal.

August 16th's friendly match against Uruguay was Didier Deschamps’ first test. The scoreless draw, in which Les Bleus showed an aggressive attack that nevertheless failed to capitalise, left commentators with little material to either praise or slate French national football team’s new coach.

Will Deschamps finally turn around France’s luck on the football pitch? Despite Les Bleus' decade-long drought, it appears football fans have not given up on their national team. While uninspiring performances and disciplinary problems once again marked France's Euro 2012 campaign, the Uruguay friendly in Le Havre was played in a sold out stadium, with 25,000 spectators on hand to kick off the Deschamps era.

Some of those fans booed after the final whistle. But many others felt it was an encouraging first game for a squad drastically revamped since Euro 2012. All were eager to see if the new coach had been able to build a team they could proudly root for at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Midas touch

France’s Football Federation, which announced on July 9 that Deschamps would lead the national team for two years, with an option for an additional two years if he could secure a ticket to the World Cup, hopes the 43-year-old coach can repeat the triumph that seems to trail him wherever he goes.

“He’s won everything there is to win,” said Alain Giresse, a former French international midfielder, who has coached the Georgian, Gabonese and Malian national teams.

“[Deschamps] has a great knowledge of the game, and he commands great respect for what he has achieved personally,” Giresse told FRANCE 24. “When you are a coach, you try to translate what you have experienced to your players. It’s true that to be a good coach, it’s important to have a winning track record.”

Indeed, Deschamps has already enjoyed an enviable career. He was the captain of the legendary French squad that conquered the 1998 World Cup and the Euro 2000. He then went to coach several winning seasons for Monaco, as well as for alma maters Juventus and Marseille.

In 2004, he guided Monaco to the final of the Champion’s League, which his team lost to Porto. In 2006, Deschamps took over at Juventus and helped the Italian club claw its way back into the Seria A after it was relegated as a result of a match-fixing scandal during the previous season. In 2009 he moved to Marseille, where he helped the team claim its first Ligue 1 title in 18 years.

Heading to Rio?

But for all Deschamp’s trophies as a player and coach, managing the French football team will not be an easy task. Since the glory days of 1998 and 2000, Les Bleus seem to routinely run into problems.

They drew wide criticism for their outright failures in the 2002 and 2010 World Cup tournaments, the latter in particular. In 2010 in South Africa, players’ refusal to participate to a training session and the team’s early exit from the Cup became a national embarrassment.

Blue-chip players like Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema, whose raw talent seems to be routinely stifled when wearing the national team’s jersey, have also been shamed over allegations they solicited an underage prostitute.

More recently, players Samir Nasri, Hatem Ben Arfa and Jérémy Ménez faced disciplinary hearings for their alleged inappropriate behavior during the 2012 Euro.

“Deschamp has to continue the changes that [former national coach] Launrent Blanc put into place. This concerns the players’ behavior, which needs to be irreproachable when they wear the team’s colours,” Giresse said.

Deschamp’s success will likely be measured through his ability to take France’s unquestionably talented players from their sporadic bursts of brilliance to reliable command of matches, and check the inflated egos that have brought embarrassing consequences on and off the field.

Qualifying Les Bleus for the 2014 World Cup, and eventually winning back the hearts of French people, are nevertheless the ultimate tests for Deschamp.

Current European and World champions, Spain, are in the same qualifying group as France and threaten to spoil the upcoming campaign. The other countries in the group are Belarus, Georgia and Finland.

“The mission is easy to define, but complicated to accomplish,” Giresse admitted. “You have to beat the other teams in the group twice, and hold Spain to draws.”

 

Date created : 2012-08-16

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