France boss Didier Deschamps has challenged his players to write another glorious chapter in the country’s footballing history ahead of tonight’s Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany.
Deschamps has no doubt the Germans, two years on from being crowned world champions, remain the best team around — indeed, he feels they have given the “best impression” of any side at the tournament so far.
But he also has great faith in the ability of his men, who are looking to emulate the achievements of the France sides of the 1998 World Cup and Euro 1984 by winning a finals they are hosting.
Speaking at yesterday’s pre-game press conference, Deschamps — France’s captain for the 1998 triumph and when they won Euro 2000 — said: “No-one can change history, but there are some new chapters to be written and the players can write them.
“This page is currently blank and they need to fill it tomorrow. The players have belief in themselves.
“We know who the opposition are. They are still the best side in the world — but we’re really going to give it everything.
“Germany are used to dominating the opposition, but we can’t simply go out there thinking about defending before trying to catch them out.
“We have an opportunity and we want to play to the best of our ability, with all the respect we have for the Germans.
“They are the reigning world champions and the side who have given the best impression over their first five matches.
“But we’re here and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got, with our qualities and attributes.”
The group stage saw France beat Romania 2-1 and Albania 2-0 then draw 0-0 with Switzerland, and they subsequently came from behind to defeat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 in the last 16 before thrashing Iceland 5-2 in the quarter finals.
Deschamps admits his side “have not done everything brilliantly” but is adamant they deserve to be in the last four and hopeful they can “create a big buzz” tonight.
“I don’t know if they get the recognition they deserve or not,” said the 47-year-old, whose team lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
“I have faith in them — I have been saying that since the start of the competition.
“We haven’t done everything brilliantly thus far. But if we are in this position, it is because the players deserve it.
“Then it is another story altogether — we are playing Germany, the best side in the competition. And a big performance against Germany would obviously create a big buzz.”
France, with midfielder N’Golo Kante and defender Adil Rami back available after suspension, will need to “outdo” themselves to overcome Germany according to captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who feels mental strength will be key.
“Regardless of the formation or personnel, it will be very important to believe in our chances of going through,” Lloris said.
“We are going to have to outdo ourselves altogether to pull off this feat, but I do feel we’re ready to do that.
“I don’t know if it is because we’re the host nation, but there is something deep within us that has been steering us from the outset, and we really want to go as far as possible, really pushing back the boundaries.
“Mental strength really will be important tomorrow. It’s a semi-final, we’re very close to the end of the competition so people are tired, and ultimately the head will take over.”
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