DOHA, Dec 16 (Reuters) – No coach in the post-World War II era has ever won the World Cup twice, but France’s Didier Deschamps is one win away from going into the record books when they face Argentina in the final in Qatar on Sunday. .
But ask the Frenchman about his chance to rewrite history if he can become the first man to win the World Cup twice as a coach and once as a player, and he’s happy to step away from the limelight and let his beloved team take center stage.
“The most important thing here is not me, it’s the team. Of course, I’m proud and we all know that now we have a chance to defend our title in the final,” said Deschamps.
“So it’s already a big achievement. We’ll do everything we can to make sure we’re happier on Sunday night.
“I don’t really think about myself. I’m happy that we achieved this success.”
Deschamps is the fourth manager to lead a country to consecutive World Cup finals, after Vittorio Pozzo (Italy), Carlos Bilardo (Argentina) and Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany), the last two of whom lost one final each.
But his lasting legacy will be uniting a France squad torn apart by infighting and indecency in the past, before building a squad capable of going deep into tournaments.
The 54-year-old specialist, who captained the “golden generation” of France that won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000, has raised another golden generation in the last ten years.
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As a manager, Deschamps led France to the European Championship final on home soil in 2016, where they narrowly lost to Portugal in extra time, the 2018 World Cup final where they thrashed Croatia and now the spectacular match in Qatar.
“We call it his lucky charm, but Deschamps’ best quality is his ability to build squads,” said former France international Patrice Evra.
“Sometimes he doesn’t pick the best players because his motivation is ‘the team is the star’… He is someone who can build a squad to win the tournament.
“He’s just an amazing manager and so humble… For me he’s the greatest French manager by miles!”
What sets Deschamps apart is his belief in youth despite being loaded with a truckload of talent.
That confidence came to the fore when he started relatively inexperienced midfielders Youssouf Fofana and Aurelien Tchouameni – who had 25 caps between them – for the semi-final.
“Well, experience is not everything, they have great qualities and play at very good clubs,” said Deschamps.
“Maybe they need experienced players to lead them, but they have the quality… I had no doubts about putting them there.”
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What has made Deschamps successful at tournaments, especially at the World Cup since 2018, is that great teams don’t stick to a particular identity or philosophy, which is often a defining characteristic.
Instead, he adapted to the conditions and the opponents. There were games where France dominated possession and others where they were happy to pass the ball and hit teams on the counter-attack.
The latter tactic worked wonders against Morocco, who reached the last four with very little possession in the semi-final but struggled to use the ball well when France sat behind.
“When you think you are close to winning against France, you are actually very far away. We will learn from this for the future, it leaves a bitter taste,” said Morocco head coach Walid Regragui.
“Didier Deschamps has shown that he is the best coach in the world in the last 10 years.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Doha; Edited by Pritha Sarkar
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