by Andy SCOTT
Fast forward two decades and Deschamps is now the long-established coach of the national side, and on his slight shoulders falls the responsibility of delivering success with an exciting young team in Russia.
There was never much that was glamorous about Deschamps’ playing style — this is the man who Eric Cantona famously described as a “water carrier” — but his was a glorious career.
After the World Cup triumph, the little midfielder also skippered his country to glory at Euro 2000. Before that he won the Champions League with Marseille and with Juventus.
For a long time, there was a feeling in France that the 49-year-old had a lucky star over his head, that he could almost do no wrong.
But Deschamps, who hails from Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque Country and very much rugby territory, was unable to deliver the title when France hosted the Euro two years ago.
Les Bleus lost in extra time to Portugal in the final, with the coach struggling to find the perfect system to get the best out of his stellar squad during the finals.
The problems have been the same since, as Les Bleus won their qualifying group despite some unconvincing displays, notably a defeat in Sweden and a home draw against Luxembourg.
With Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and other world-class players at his disposal, Deschamps certainly has the tools to deliver a better end result than the quarter-final exit in Brazil four years ago.
“I know what a failed World Cup is. What constitutes success? We have ambition, we are competitors, but we need to keep the necessary humbleness,” Deschamps said as he prepares for a third major tournament at the helm.
– Pressure –
He has already shown the courage of his convictions, leaving out Adrien Rabiot and reacting to the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder’s refusal to go on a standby list by saying there was “no place for soul-searching”.
‘DD’ was appointed in 2012 to succeed Laurent Blanc having previously taken Monaco to the 2004 Champions League final and won a Ligue 1 title with Marseille.
Last autumn he extended his contract until 2020, but will he be able to remain in charge for the next European Championship should France fail to deliver in Russia?
After all, his old international team-mate Zinedine Zidane continues to achieve great success with Real Madrid.
Surely he cannot stay at the Santiago Bernabeu forever, and where else can he realistically go next apart from the national team?
That may be one for the long-term future, but there is pressure on Deschamps, who was no longer involved when France bombed out at the group stage as holders in 2002.
He also watched on in shock like the rest of the country at their disastrous display under Raymond Domenech in South Africa in 2010, marked by a squad mutiny and an inability to win a game.
Deschamps is therefore wary of suggestions France should cruise through a group also containing Australia, Peru and Denmark.
“We had the same unanimous feeling in 2002 and 2010. A draw on paper can leave people to think that. But today, in football at the top level, you need to go out and actually beat all your opponents, show respect.”
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