France coach Didier Deschamps will tell his young side to focus on Croatia and three other Cs when they meet in Sunday’s World Cup final: calmness, confidence and concentration.
Deschamps was France’s World Cup-winning captain in 1998 but experienced the disappointment of seeing his side lose on home turf in the final of the European Championship in 2016.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of Russia 2018’s finale, the 49-year-old said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here and I will tell my players there is nothing more beautiful for a player than the World Cup final. But I will say three important words: stay calm, have confidence and concentrate.”
Deschamps, who has the chance to join Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer as World Cup winners as players and coaches, said his team felt “satisfaction, not euphoria” at being in the final, as they were focusing on the biggest game of their lives and wanted that “result to talk for itself”.
Asked what mental scars his players might have after their Euro 2016 defeat by Portugal, Deschamps pointed out that 14 of his squad are new and the nine who were in Paris two years ago “will know what happened, which can only serve us well here”.
On the challenge Croatia’s canny midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will pose France at the Luzhniki Stadium, Deschamps said: “Yes, it’s true Croatia has players with strong club experiences and who have reached a level of maturity on the pitch together, but we have met teams with more experience than us all through the tournament.”
And he added that Modric and Rakitic, although they have “great intelligence and influence”, cannot hurt you on their own in the way an Eden Hazard or Lionel Messi can but failed to do in France’s run to the final, as Croatia’s star duo are “midfielders, not true strikers”.
Much has been made at the tournament of France’s conservative style. That is partly because they took a few games to find their rhythm and partly to do with some disappointment that a team with attacking talents such as Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe was not providing more thrills.
France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris, however, sees it slightly differently, saying they have simply defended well and “expressed their talent” in the right parts of the pitch – a tactical approach that “has gone very well and we hope will provide another great performance” against Croatia.
The Spurs keeper was also very careful to show Sunday’s opponents due respect, adding: “They have shown incredible mental and physical strength to get to the final, having come through three extra-times.
“Of course, they have had great individual talent for many years but they now have this collective strength and we are going to have to be at a very high level to be able to win tomorrow.”
The 21st World Cup final kicks off at 4pm British time and will be France’s third appearance on this stage in 20 years, while Croatia’s best result is the third-place finish they achieved in the same 1998 edition of the tournament that France won.