Marseille, France: If France heads into the European Championship final against Portugal on Sunday as the favorite, it owes as much to the authoritative coaching of Didier Deschamps as to Antoine Griezmann's goals.
Bookmakers have made the host nation a good bet after Griezmann scored twice to give France a 2-0 victory over world champion Germany in Marseille on Thursday.
"I've always believed in my players. The ones I selected in this squad have repaid me well," Deschamps said. "It's their win, their history. I've been in quite a few finals — but it's better when you're on the pitch."
Deschamps was extremely demanding of his teammates when he captained France to glory at the 1998 World Cup on home soil, and again when he guided them to the title at Euro 2000.
As a coach, he inspires players with his honesty in decision making, and by not avoiding the tough calls. Fans see it as a reflection of his playing career. Where Zinedine Zidane provided the creativity when France was top of the football pile, Deschamps added the relentless persistence of a ball-winning midfielder.
"We suffered tonight, but we suffered together," Deschamps said.
There are no favors to be had from Deschamps and everyone gets their chance, regardless of status. Star striker Karim Benzema was left out of the squad, and Griezmann has thrived in his absence, taking his tally for Euro 2016 to six on Thursday.
Attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet has been France's other standout performer.
One year ago, Payet thought his international career was over when Deschamps took him off at halftime during a friendly match.
But he gave him a second chance, and Payet responded with three goals at Euro 2016, helping France through laborious early wins against Romania and Albania.
Deschamps persevered with mild-mannered goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as his captain, despite his apparent lack of vocal leadership. Lloris has blossomed into a commanding figure, making crucial saves against Germany when the pressure was on.
"I'm very proud to be part of this team," Lloris said. "Everyone faces up to their responsibility."
Deschamps is not afraid to take risks and gets players thriving under positive pressure.
Observers questioned whether he should select inexperienced Samuel Umtiti in the center of defense against World Cup winner Germany. Making only his second international appearance, the 22-year-old Umtiti proved Deschamps right with an assured performance.
On the eve of the Germany match, Deschamps told his players to write themselves into the history of French football.
They stand one game away from doing just that, and Deschamps is reminding them what it would mean.
"The best thing that happened to me as a player was wearing this jersey," Deschamps said.
It seems hard to bet against France winning on Sunday, because Deschamps has a winning habit.
He was captain when Marseille won the Champions League in 1993 — the only French side to win it — and led Monaco against the odds to the 2004 final, where it lost to Porto. In his first season as Marseille coach, he won the league title in 2010 — ending an 18-year wait — and won three League Cups.
Deschamps is flexible with his tactics and a strong man-manager.
He has kept players hungry throughout Euro 2016, dropping Griezmann after his lethargic performance against Romania in the opener.
Griezmann came off the bench against Albania to score with a well-placed header in the 90th minute, breaking the stalemate.
There was no stopping him after that.
Published Date: Jul 08, 2016 01:00 pm | Updated Date: Jul 08, 2016 01:00 pm