France among Euro 'favourites' but in 'tough group': Coach Deschamps

AFP , Wednesday 1 May 2024

France national team coach Didier Deschamps told AFP in an exclusive interview that even if France are amongst the pre-tournament favourites for Euro 2024 in Germany, his team must first concentrate on getting through a "tough group".

Didier Deschamps
France s national football team head coach Didier Deschamps poses during a photo session in the Principality of Monaco, on April 29, 2024. AFP


"I'm going to go against what has been said here and there. We're in a tough group. People have been talking about it (France's Euro 2024 group) being a walk in a park," Deschamps said to AFP in Monaco.

The 2018 World Cup winners are in Group D where they will start their campaign against Austria on June 17, before taking on the Netherlands four days later and then ending their group-stage ties against Poland on June 25.

If some in France think Deschamps' side making it through to the knock-out rounds is a given, the 55-year-old is taking nothing for granted.

"The Netherlands are still a great footballing nation. When we beat them 4-0 in March 2023, they were a depleted team, without several key players. Poland are strong collectively and rely on individuals like Robert Lewandowski," said Deschamps.

"Austria are a very solid team, they recently beat the Germans.

"You have to take each stage at a time. The first is to get through the first round," added the World Cup winning coach and captain.

"Like other nations, we have the potential to go all the way, but we shouldn't be thinking about a semi-final or a possible final just yet. The Euros are very competitive, with eight of the top ten teams in the FIFA rankings taking part."

After leading France to World Cup glory in Russia in 2018, the European Championship still eludes Deschamps' grasp as a coach.

After losing the final on home soil in 2016 and a surprise last-16 exit four years later to Switzerland, the Euro 2000 winning captain will be hoping it is third time lucky as he looks to complete a remarkable quartet of World Cup and Euro titles as a coach and player.

However, Deschamps is not heading to Germany with a desire for revenge for past disappointments.

"I'd say they were under-performances (the past tournaments). It's true, I haven't won the Euro as coach, but a lot of coaches haven't won it," he said.

"If the standards are so high, it's because the team has made a lot of progress... After the World Cup, there's nothing bigger than the Euros. We're going to approach the next one with ambition, but also with a clear head.

"It's logical that we should be among the favourites, like other teams. But we shouldn't be thinking about the finish, we should be thinking about the three group matches," added Deschamps.

Selection headaches

But before those three matches, Deschamps still faces the usual selection headaches that dominates the build-up to all major international tournaments.

And this time round, he must also await final UEFA validation on whether squad sizes for Euro 2024 will be set at a maximum of 23 or 26 players.

"If I take 26 players, it's because I think it's useful for the French team. Adaptation is my watchword. So I'm going to adapt to the decisions taken and to other parameters," he said.

Amongst those in contention is Bradley Barcola of Paris Saint-Germain. The 21-year-old has hit form at the business end of PSG's season and has forced himself into contention for a place in the squad, despite having just one international cap to his name.

"Just because I'm not in the habit of calling up players for the finals who I haven't selected before doesn't mean I'm going to do without them. I don't operate by that kind of rule," said Deschamps.

"I'm not conservative and I don't make choices worrying about what people will think of them. If I feel I have to do something different in the interests of the French team, I do it differently. Every situation has its answers."

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