Dubai: Defending the World Cup in four years’ time is the key objective for France coach Didier Deschamps, who became only the third man to win the title as both a coach and a player last summer.
You would be forgiven for thinking the 50-year-old had run his course with Les Bleus having recovered from their Euro 2016 final defeat on home soil to win the World Cup in Russia 20 years after he had first done it as a player.
However, the man who joins Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer as only the third person to have won the World Cup on either side of the touchline confirmed at the Dubai Sports Conference at Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday that he still had ambitions for more.
“It’s always difficult, but we are proud of our World Cup win. I was privileged to be there twice and win twice, so we still have ambitions before there is Euro 2020 and the World Cup in 2022, and that is an objective for the French team,” he said.
“It’s difficult to measure the happiness of what happened in 1998 as a player and as a coach in 2018. Both were fabulous emotions. As a player you needed to be physically fit, but as a coach it was psychological, not physical. Either way the happiness is always big.
“I always told my players that life for them would not be the same. We went through strong emotions and that part of life was a pleasure for me.”
Even after losing the final to Portugal at Euro 2016 in France, he said he wasn’t flustered about his future going into the World Cup, where he would be harshly judged if he failed, especially after leaving out key player Karim Benzema.
“I never felt any pressure for football, only excitement and passion. Those are the feelings that are unique to sport that you won’t find in any other professional field — the desire to succeed when the support of a whole country is behind you. That’s what allows you to excel. Stress and pressure is something marginal. I never looked at football as a duty, but a passion. It will always be a passion.”
“Criticism is a part of life in football,” he added of overcoming the Euro 2016 defeat, and his subsequent decision to still not pick Benzema for 2018.
Benzema was originally dropped for his alleged part in a blackmail scandal involving fellow France player Mathieu Valbuena.
“Whether you are a player or coach you like to have good feedback. I choose the players I know were good for the team. Beyond football qualities there are also human qualities, with players who are good together. When I made my list of 23 for the World Cup they were not the best in terms of skills, but they were homogenous and I knew they could go very far to win the World Cup, that’s why we became world champions.
“It’s always difficult to make choices because they are human, they are men, but I take my responsibility and I assume responsibility. I am not here to give good things to the media or my critics, I think this is my choice, and this is what’s best for the French team.
“Every player has a sports quality but there is something beyond that, the spirit of the team. Sometimes there are difficult choices, but it is important to assume your choices.”