Nick Ames/The Guardian
France’s run to the World Cup final presents an opportunity to erase the pain of Euro 2016, according to Didier Deschamps, who believes his players can write “the most beautiful page” in the football history of their country when they face England or Croatia on Sunday.
Deschamps was in charge when France, favoured to win their home tournament, fell at the final hurdle against Portugal.
After his side overcame Belgium to earn their shot at a second world title he explained
the experience made their present achievement feel even sweeter.
“I was there two years ago with my staff,” Deschamps said.
“It was so painful we really want to taste the victory tonight. It’s not nothing to win the semi-final of the World Cup after losing the final of the Euro. It’s sport, we have this privilege to give happiness to the French people and the public.”
Comparisons with the World Cup-winning side Deschamps captained in 1998 arose frequently during his post match press conference, to which he arrived more than an hour after their 1-0 win. He sought to play down any influence that could have on his players, pointing out that their memories will generally be minimal.
“You have to live in your own times: I never, never, never mention my own history,” Deschamps said.
“Some of them were not born but saw pictures. It belongs to a lot of French people that lived through it but not the young generation. I’m here to write a new page in history, the most beautiful page.
“ I’m not saying I’m not proud of what we did 20 years ago. Nobody will be able to erase it. But we can’t look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror.”
Deschamps was thrilled with the way France nullified a Belgium side he described as being “like lightning rods” if given space. “When it comes to mental strength and solidarity my team demonstrated everything is positive,” he said.
His counterpart, Roberto Martínez, said the “disappointment is huge” and he was left to regret the fine margins – lax defending that allowed Samuel Umtiti to head the only goal which consigned Belgium to the third place play-off on Saturday.
“Losing or winning was down to just one deadball situation and that shows how close the game was,” he said.
“We couldn’t find that bit of magic in front of goal, that bit of luck. But I’m so proud of the players. If you’re going to lose, you lose giving everything you’ve got and drive until the last second.”
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