Deschamps' World Cup win a triumph for substance over style

Monday, July 16, 2018

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Moscow , Russia (AFP) — Didier Deschamps' France side have not always won admirers for their way of playing at this World Cup, but that will not matter to the hundreds of thousands celebrating in the streets back home after their final victory over Croatia.

France won 4-2 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow yesterday, with star men Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe all scoring as they lifted the trophy for the second time in their history.

They are the first team to score four times in the final since Pele's great Brazil side beat Italy 4-1 in Mexico in 1970, and the match was the highest-scoring World Cup final since England's 4-2 victory against West Germany back in 1966.

It was achieved with a brilliantly talented set of players, embodied by 19-year-old Mbappe, not even born when France last won it in 1998 and now the youngest player to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.

He had already lit up this tournament with his electric performance against Argentina, scoring twice in his side's 4-3 win in Kazan in the last 16.

However, these two high-scoring encounters do not provide an accurate picture of the way Deschamps' team have played in this competition.

In their five other games they scored a total of six goals, including two Griezmann penalties and one own goal. They were also involved in the only goalless draw of the tournament — against Denmark in their last group outing.

Against Croatia, Griezmann's penalty that gave them a 2-1 lead in the 38th minute came from their first shot on goal of the game, with their opener — a Mario Mandzukic own goal. France finished with just 39 per cent of the possession.

With a shrug, Deschamps asked after the game: “Are France beautiful champions? Well, we are world champions and will be on top of the world for four years.”

Deschamps has regularly been criticised throughout this competition, and throughout his six-year reign in charge, for his style of football. Yet this win follows the near miss of Euro 2016, when as hosts they lost in extra time to Portugal in Paris.

Deschamps became France's longest-serving coach during this tournament, and the progress has been constant since he took charge in 2012 and took the team to the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup, losing to eventual winners Germany.

This time, while the Germans went out in the group stage, France went all the way.

Deschamps has always been a winner, going back to his playing days when he captained France to glory at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 and won the Champions League with Marseille and Juventus.

He is now only the third man in history to win the World Cup as both a player and coach after Brazil's Mario Zagallo and German Franz Beckenbauer.

“I have never seen or experienced a World Cup like this one. There was a levelling off towards the top, and the so-called smaller teams came in so well prepared physically,” he said as he defended his reactionary style.

“They hurt the countries who I always remember as being the strongest. The teams who had most control in terms of possession were practically all punished by quick attacks.

“In football, if you know how to defend well, you can be sure that you will get at least two or three chances on the counter-attack or from set-pieces.”

He added: “Against Denmark we were not very nice to watch. That would not have been enough had we kept playing like that, but we managed to keep raising our game.”

Had France fallen short in Russia, there would have been a growing clamour for the French Football Federation to approach Zinedine Zidane, a free agent since leaving Real Madrid.

But now Deschamps will surely stay in the job as long as he wants it, with his contract running until 2020.

“The plan is that I stay, so I am going to stay,” he told French radio station RTL.

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