From our Special Envoy in Doha,
The scene made us somewhat hallucinate. Squatting on the edge of the platform, in the gigantic conference room of the no less gigantic Doha press center, Monday noon, Didier Deschamps poses, all smiles, with several foreign journalists as if electrified by the presence of the double world champion . This kind of practice is clearly outside the scope of a World Cup match eve press conference, but the coach accepts without flinching. “Let’s hurry, I still have a busy day,” he warns simply. A relaxed attitude that contrasts sharply with that of the day before, on the set improvised by Téléfoot in the courtyard of the Hôtel des Bleus.
Deschamps appears tense and each question from journalist Fred Calange about Karim Benzema’s package brings dry, incisive answers, as if he felt himself being pushed into the ropes. Our colleague from TF1, official broadcaster of the Blues, is however not known to be the most itchy hair in the profession. Admittedly, the best offensive asset of the Dèche, with Kylian Mbappé, has just slapped him between the legs, and he has every reason in the world to be annoyed, but this is not the first time that the coach seems to us on a thread from the beginning of the gathering. If his propensity to tickle journalists was not born yesterday, there is something passive-aggressive in his behavior that tells something other than a passing anger. He assures him however, everything in him and his group is only “calm and serenity”.
So, at the dawn of his third World Cup as coach, would Didier Deschamps be more tense than he wants to say publicly? Between the fiasco of last summer at the Euro which could have cost him his place if Noël Le Graët had not calmed down the ardor of Florence Hardouinthe heavy shadow of Zinédine Zidane who will eventually grow impatient, the toxic working atmosphere within the FFF, the accusations of harassment against its president, the Pogba affair, the cascades of injuries, you just have to bend over to find reasons to bite your nails.
When it’s blurry, there’s a wolf
In his choices too, the coach may have seemed a little lost before flying to Qatar. Starting with this list of 25 baroque that not many people understood. By burying without the slightest qualm the system of three central defenders that he had patiently worked for more than a year, the former captain of France 98 sent back the image of a coach who tinkers in the confusion the more total. One day, he tells us that it is by taking as many attackers as possible that we have the best chance of winning matches, the next day he summons nine defenders, including only one full-back.
“It’s true that there is a bit of an impression of general vagueness. What is certain is that we have fallen behind the other major nations who have been working on continuity for months and months, recognizes Jérôme Rothen, in place in Doha with the RMC Sport band. Some of Didier’s choices are inconsistent, that’s the reality. Take back guys like Giroud… Since the Euro he no longer calculated it and there he takes it back. Not to mention the defense of three, the fact of leaving for a year on the sides with certain players (Clauss in particular) to finally not call them back at the most important moment. It gives the feeling that we are sailing a little on sight. »
It also gives the impression of déjà vu. Questioned by the journalist from Figaro Baptiste Desprez after the slap in Bucharest last summer, a close friend of Deschamps testified in the book The secret story of a missed date : “He gave the impression of clinging to the branches during the match against Switzerland, but also throughout the Euro, I did not recognize him. It was not Didier Deschamps sure of him and clear in his ideas. As if he had undergone and improvised permanently. “It felt like it was out of control. The whole group felt it”, will also say in this book a member of the group present at Euro 2021. “It may also be linked on the death of his father, tempers the former press officer Philippe Tournon. He had a real slump that we can understand and he may have lost control for a few weeks, it’s quite plausible. »
“Old recipes no longer have the same effects…”
“Hasn’t Didier lost his hand a little bit? Asks someone close to the coach today. When you stay ten years at the head of a team, you may still be hungry, doesn’t the spring inevitably distend? This is the danger that lurks when one remains in post for so long. He never showed weariness, but isn’t there a kind of pernicious erosion that makes it no longer the Didier of 2014 or 2018? And if you add to that a few disappointments on top of that, on arrival the old recipes no longer have the same effects…” Speaking of old recipes, we are right in the middle of it with the probable return to the 4-2- system. 3-1 epic Russian version for the match against Australia.
“I find it hard to imagine that they can reproduce what he did in Russia in the way of playing, engages Jérôme Rothen. Simply because it’s impossible given the players he has. And if he does that, it’s a big mistake in my opinion. “He develops:” If we take the example of Kylian Mbappé: the efforts that Deschamps asked of him in 2018 on the right side at the time, are you going to be able to ask him the same thing today? No, because he is no longer the same player as four years ago. You will have to find something else in the approach, in what you sell to players. You can’t make guys play against nature. And if you do, you run the risk of cutting yourself off from part of your group. »
Doha, Deschamps’ swan song?
The problem is that at the Euro, DD moved away from the founding principles that made it strong to meet the demands of some of these executives – especially during the match against Switzerland – who were pushing to play three behind. For the result that we know. All the work of Didier Deschamps will be to find the right balance between the freedom granted to his offensive players and the solidity at the base of the coronation in 2018. Without forgetting to take his whole group with him for what is, in the opinion of Rothen, his last competition at the head of the Blues, regardless of the result. An outside opinion that is worth what it is worth: in the event of a short run to the semi-finals, let’s even say a quarter-final lost with honors, courage to exfiltrate it without causing any drama.
Artisan of the incredible Argentine awakening after years of misery, Lionel Scaloni said recently that “the tactical system and the strategy put in place are less important aspects than having players who follow you”. Hearing Lucas Hernandez the other day in conf talk about the need to have “eleven warriors on the pitch” against Australia, we may have the beginning of an answer.
Philippe Tournon continued: “As he is thoroughly pragmatic, certainly he has learned certain lessons from the Euro and will correct the situation. He’s a guy who doesn’t cultivate nostalgia, he leads his thinking, he draws his conclusions and then he moves on. It’s made like that. I have frequented it too much to doubt Didier’s management today. “And his desire to extend his lease a little more in the France team, when everyone imagines him retiring in a month.