2014 FIFA World Cup™
Deschamps: A chance to write history
12 Feb 2014
"Napoleon said that, to win battles, you need good soldiers and luck – and Didier has always had that," remarked Michel Platini in 2012, stirred by the career of Didier Deschamps to flip back through the pages of history. "In fact, I have to wonder if he wasn't dropped in a church font when he was born."
Of course, the current France coach owes his myriad successes to far more than good fortune, but it is easy to see why the UEFA President feels his fellow France legend has enjoyed fate's helping hand along the way.
Put simply, everything Deschamps touches turns to gold. As a player, the Bayonne native clinched nearly every title going, amassing silverware at each club he graced. The first Frenchman to lift the UEFA Champions League trophy for a French club when Marseille prevailed in 1993, he repeated that victory with Juventus three years later – and went on to eclipse even those triumphs in unforgettable fashion in 1998. Captaining his national team, Deschamps broke thrilling new ground when Les Bleus won their sole FIFA World Cup™ title on home soil.
The achievements did not dry up when Deschamps switched to coaching either. The former midfielder was in charge when Monaco became the most recent French outfit to reach the Champions League final in 2004, and he also led Marseille to six different trophies between 2010 and 2012.
Subsequently appointed France coach, he steered his side to the 2014 World Cup courtesy of a 3-0 second-leg win against Ukraine after losing their play-off opener 2-0. FIFA.com met up with the serial winner in Costa do Sauipe ahead of the Final Draw, where his charges were drawn with Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador in Group E.
FIFA.com: Looking back, Didier, what are your thoughts now on France's qualifying campaign?
Didier Deschamps: It was tough. We found ourselves in a group of five teams that included the world champions, Spain. Things played out according to our respective standings because they qualified directly, whereas we had to go through the play-offs. Play-off matches are never easy, and against Ukraine we made a mess of the away game. We were able to turn the situation around at home, however. Ultimately, it's a huge satisfaction to have reached our goal and to have shared such powerful emotions with our supporters at the Stade de France. That was really pleasing.
Would you agree there was something typically 'French' about that feat?
Lots of French people were behind us. The press write and say many things, but the people, my staff and I believed in the players. That was the most important thing. It's true that our qualification continued a French tradition to some extent. When things are tough, French athletes tend to pull out great performances, but when they're favourites they have trouble living up to expectations. We had our backs to the wall in that game, having lost 2-0, and we managed to go through. Because of that, the emotions were even more intense.
What did you say to your players?
Before the game, I told them they had the chance to write their own history. The real protagonists are the players – the coach and his staff are important, of course, but the players are the actual protagonists. After the match, I congratulated them. They had a right to feel proud of themselves. They had their friends and families there, and they'd made it possible for France's supporters – lots of people – to experience some very strong emotions. It wasn't easy, but they pulled it off and made sure the France team reached its goal.
Have France finally consigned their South Africa 2010 campaign to the past?No one will ever be able to blot out what happened in 2010. That's going to be part of our history, but you have to stop looking at the past. What's important is this World Cup, and then EURO 2016, which will be held in France afterwards. The France team must always be ambitious and aim to be as competitive as possible. We'll go to Brazil with the desire to progress as far as possible.
Is there a type of player perfect for a squad competing in a tournament as demanding as the World Cup?
First and foremost, it's all about collective effort. Freshness can be an important factor as well. If there are players who've played a little less in the weeks leading up to a World Cup, that's better – they go into the tournament a little less tired. Lastly, there's individual talent, of course. But the most important thing is to have a spirit of unity and a winning mentality. We'll be spending several weeks together between the start of our preparations and the end of the tournament. The squad dynamic and the mentality of the players will be essential. That's not what wins you matches, but I don't think you can get results without that either.
Does the fact that the finals are being held in Brazil add a little more magic to the mix?Yes, it's the land of football. As a rule, players, coaches, supporters – everyone – dreams about the World Cup, but in Brazil there's the whole party atmosphere as well. That said, whether it's in Brazil or somewhere else, there's nothing more wonderful than a World Cup.