French triumph over Switzerland relies on guts

Last updated 16:11 02/07/2014
DIDIER DESCHAMPS: ‘‘Football ability is one thing, but it’s your mentality and what you have in your stomach that allows you to turn a situation around and get a result.’’
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DIDIER DESCHAMPS: ‘‘Football ability is one thing, but it’s your mentality and what you have in your stomach that allows you to turn a situation around and get a result.’’

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France coach Didier Deschamps has never lost a World Cup match, and his experience tells him that winning Saturday's quarterfinal against Germany will come down to guts.

Deschamps captained France to their only World Cup title in 1998, when the side was unbeaten, and he was again captain two years later when it won the European Championship.

His first World Cup campaign as coach is also proving fruitful, with France winning three and drawing one of their four games so far, although Les Bleus needed late goals to beat Nigeria 2-0 in their second-round match. France's group - containing Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras - was not among the strongest in the competition and Germany will be favourites at the Maracana.

''Football ability is one thing, but it's your mentality and what you have in your stomach that allows you to turn a situation around and get a result,'' Deschamps said.

''I hate [defeat] and I always will hate it. The players need to feel that way and they do. It's not an exact science, but you need to dig deep inside of yourself, never give up and keep going.''

France were in disarray at the last World Cup four years ago, where the team went on strike and went out without winning a game. The team almost did not qualify for this tournament after losing 2-0 in the first leg of their playoff against Ukraine last November.

After that bitterly cold night in Kiev, few observers would have banked on France getting this far. But since then, they are unbeaten in nine games, have kept seven clean sheets and scored 28 goals.

''I'm very proud of what the team has done,'' Deschamps said.

''We haven't failed our World Cup, that's for sure. But we're not going into Friday's match as tourists. If we go into it all relaxed then we'll get a shock.''

France have won four of the past six friendly matches against Germany, with one draw and a 2-1 defeat the last time they played two years ago.

It's a different story at the World Cup, with Michel Platini's entertaining France side losing to the former West Germany in the semifinals in 1982 and 1986.

The defeat in '82 is arguably the most painful defeat in the history of French football, after France led 3-1 in extra time only to lose in a tense penalty shootout in Seville.

That match also saw a notorious incident when goalkeeper Harald Schumacher rushed off his line and smashed France defender Patrick Battiston full in the face as he ran through on goal. There was no attempt to get the ball, an unconscious Battiston went off on a stretcher and, astonishingly, Schumacher was not even shown a yellow card.

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''My first souvenirs are of this '82 World Cup. It was a cruel ending but it was more than 30 years ago, so we're not going to start talking about revenge,'' the 45-year-old Deschamps said.

''It was a big moment emotionally for those players, a sad one. But football has that magical quality of emotion.''

Deschamps, however, will not use that match, or the 2-0 defeat in the semifinal four years later, to motivate his players.

''They weren't born then. I'm going to talk to them about what? If I talk to them about 2006, OK, but you have to live in your own era,'' Deschamps said.

''What's important is what happens on Friday (Saturday NZ time).''

- AP

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