A football team starts a match with eleven players and wins (or loses) it with thirteen or fourteen. To last during a competition like a Euro, the selections are generally based on this hard core and on a few elements taken off the bench for a match, or for a few minutes, depending on the circumstances.
Like all coaches, Didier Deschamps must be as much an effective manager as a fine psychologist. It is about building confidence in these fifteen players, while keeping their comrades under pressure. So is the social climate in a group of 26 elements.
But the Basque is not there either to distribute the minutes in order to avoid making people jealous. For this third match in Group F against Portugal, Wednesday, June 23, in Budapest, the coach does not lose the sense of priorities. With four points, the world champions secured a place in the round of 16, but not a first place that would save them from facing a big opponent in the first knockout match.
“Do not always burn the same players”
To listen to him, after the draw conceded against Hungary, Saturday, June 19 (1-1), Didier Deschamps is tempted to bring fresh blood and a few rested legs to challenge reigning European champions in danger after their defeat against Germany (4-2): “I do not exclude that there may be a turnover. With this sequence every four days, freshness will be important. “
Since the start of the tournament, the boss of the Blues has touched very little on his starting XI. Between Germany (1-0) and Hungary, he just went from one Lucas to another at the left-back position with the replacement of Hernandez by Digne. Against Portugal, the time is not either to empty the bench, as was able to do his Italian colleague, Roberto Mancini, who, against Wales, has lined up eight new Azzurri, with success, since the Italians won a third victory in a row.
Alain Boghossian knows his “Didier” – as world champion in 1998 by his side – and expects a reasonable dose of changes: “For Didier, the difficulty is the management after this draw. It gets more complicated, judge the former assistant of Laurent Blanc during Euro 2012. If you want to go far in a competition, you should not always burn the same players. But he’s not going to make five or six changes, that would be too much. He’s going to do three. “
An opinion shared by Philippe Troussier. “When you play Germany and Portugal, there is no time for the break-in. You have to be good at the start. The option will not be to rest players, perhaps just touching on small details ”, advance the former coach of Japan at the 2002 World Cup.
The need to keep up the pace
Change a little, but who? In the sweltering of Budapest on Saturday, some appeared more blunt than others. This is the case of Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot or even Benjamin Pavard, perhaps poorly recovered from the shock to the head received against the Nationalmannschaft. Didier Deschamps noticed it in his post-match conference.
“Paul [Pogba], by its size, it is immediately visible more. Maybe a little juice was missing, Adrien [Rabiot] Also lacked in the second half, that’s why I changed them too. I could see they were a little worse off. ” Entered against the Germans and the Hungarians, Corentin Tolisso has everything of a potential holder to blow at least one of his two comrades in the midfield.
There is also the question of the management of Karim Benzema. Still silent in front of goal since his return to the selection and uninspired against Hungary, the center forward begins to hear the little music of the competition with Olivier Giroud. But the Madrilenian is a strong choice of the coach and he intends to maintain his confidence.
For Philippe Troussier, we do not lead a team from France with the advice of “67 million breeders”. “If the journalists try to see what could be done to improve the team, only the staff is in direct contact with the life of the locker room. He masters everything related to the preparation and implementation of such a project. ”
Apart from the quest for confidence, which sometimes makes you persevere in a particular choice, another criterion comes into play: the need to keep up the pace. Antoine Griezmann spoke about it with his naturalness during a press conference on Sunday: “I prefer to chain, I’m used to it. But it’s up to the coach to decide, see if he wants to give others playing time. “
Camille Abily understands this reasoning. The former international with 183 selections speaks of it from experience. “Sometimes we wanted to be cut in the third game. Me, I liked to chain to keep the rhythm, confirms the assistant coach of the Olympique Lyonnais players. When you do not start any match in the first round, depending on the profile, diesel or explosive, it’s more or less hard to find this rhythm. ” It is up to the staff to do what is necessary to keep in shape those who have not or little played.
Quarter-finalist of the Women’s World Cup in 2015, the playmaker remembers the importance of the third group match after a mixed start. “We beat the English from the start, then we lost to Colombia. We absolutely had to win the third against Mexico. The coach had made some changes, she recalls. This match grew us and created a real group. “
Healthy and undistorted competition is an essential criterion to allow emulation in a collective with its ego and its status. Alain Boghossian is well placed to know the importance of it, he who started only once in 1998, but entered four times during the game. “Those who do not play push the incumbents to surpass themselves. In 1998, when we put pressure on them, it pulled the team up, advance the former midfielder. Aime Jacquet [le sélectionneur], by his roll in group and in the round of 16, had managed to keep this high level without exhausting his eleven. “
If the Blues want to go to the end of the adventure – at the end of a trying season long – they will have to spare their strength. But not too much. “In 2002, we made a preparation to be on top for the quarters, the semi-finals and the final. It was still necessary that we pass the hen phase “, quips Boghossian.
Didier Deschamps may have already put away his crampons during the South Korean fiasco, he knows the instructions for a final phase well enough to avoid the trap.
Portugal-France, Wednesday 23 June at 9 p.m., in Budapest, to be followed live on Lemonde.fr
Our selection of articles on Euro 2021