World champions France vow no let-up ahead of Germany clash
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France coach Didier Deschamps said the world champions cannot afford any drop in standards as they prepare to launch their UEFA Nations League campaign away to Germany on Thursday.
Les Bleus return to action for the first time since lifting the World Cup trophy in Russia when they take on Joachim Loew's embattled Germany, the previous title holders, at a sold-out Allianz Arena in Munich.
"I don't feel there's any letting up. Quite the opposite," Deschamps told reporters on Wednesday.
"There's a cheerful atmosphere in the squad but that doesn't stop the players from doing what they need to during training sessions and playing with intensity," he added
Germany's defence of their World Cup title ended with a disastrous group-stage exit in Russia, the country's earliest elimination since falling in the first round of the 1938 tournament.
But Deschamps, whose side also face the Netherlands in their Nations League group, believes Germany are still capable of returning to their form of recent years.
"Germany were one of the big favourites at the World Cup. It didn't go well for them but the quality of this German team is there," the French coach said.
"They don't go from being one of the World Cup favourites to an average side overnight, because the main core [of players] is still there. They're still a top team," he added.
Last week Deschamps named a largely unchanged squad for Les Bleus’ first matches since their World Cup triumph, replacing only the injured goalkeeper Steve Mandanda with Bordeaux’s Benoît Costil.
A late injury to first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris means the captain’s armband will go to Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane.
"I would have preferred they were here,” Deschamps said of the injured Lloris and Mandanda. “But I have total confidence in my three goalkeepers and in Alphonse Areola who will play tomorrow.”
The 25-year-old Varane, who will be making his 50th international appearance, said France must "keep the same values and the same ambition" in the wake of their World Cup victory.
"It's not going to change our way of preparing for matches and how we get on as a group," said Varane.
"It gives us a particular status but I don't think this two-star jersey [in recognition of a second World Cup title] will weigh heavily on us,” he added. "We know we're up against a formidable opponent, but it's good to get back into the swing of things."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)