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Honigstein: Low's men coming of age

Germany Jul 5, 2014
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Didier Deschamps

Latest Team: France

2014 FIFA World Cup

  • 5GP
  •  
  • 3Won
  •  
  • 1Draw
  •  
  • 1Lost
  •  

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Previous Clubs/Countries: Monaco, Juventus, Marseille

Honours: Coupe de la Ligue: 2003, 2010, 2011, 2012; UEFA Champions League (runner-up): 2004; Serie B: 2007; Ligue 1: 2010; Trophee des Champions: 2010, 2011

Having lost the first leg of their qualification playoff to Ukraine 2-0 and with France on the verge of missing out on a World Cup spot for the first time in 20 years, Didier Deschamps was close to becoming public enemy No. 1 in his homeland. A poll in L'Equipe showed that some 61 percent did not think France would make it to Brazil but to Deschamps' credit, he masterminded a remarkable turnaround in Paris to triumph 3-0 and restore faith and confidence in Les Bleus.

Deschamps is no stranger to epic comebacks, as those who watched Monaco's 2003-04 Champions League quarter-final victory Real Madrid, and Marseille's dramatic 2011 Trophée des Champions win over Lille, will testify. It is an intrinsic feature of the Frenchman, whose determination and vigour earned him the reputation as one of his nation's finest and most consistent performers in his playing days.

Having enjoyed spells at Bayonne, Nantes and Bordeaux, Deschamps made his impact on the European stage at Marseille where he became the youngest captain to lift the Champions League trophy, in their 1-0 win over AC Milan in 1993, and helped to establish l'OM as the dominant force in French football. A move to Italian giants Juventus soon followed where he added three Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia, another Champions League success and the Intercontinental Cup to his list of honours.

His tenacity and ability to protect defence, combined with excellent vision, established him as France's midfield conductor and he became the first player to make a century of international appearances for Les Bleus, lifting both the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship as captain. Few international managers can cite such a distinguished playing career as Deschamps, who went on to represent Chelsea and Valencia in the twilight of his career.

Hanging up his boots in 2001, Deschamps made the immediate transition to coaching and was hired by Monaco. Despite a disappointing first season in which the principality outfit finish 15th, Deschamps led them to a French Coupe de la Ligue triumph in 2003 and followed it up with a remarkable Champions League campaign the next season, as Monaco eliminated Real Madrid and Chelsea before falling victim to Jose Mourinho's Porto in the final.

A poor start to the 2004-05 season and a dispute with the club president witnessed Deschamps resign from his post in September but only nine months later, Juventus approached their former midfield general, hoping he could steer them back into Serie A after the much-publicised Calciopoli match-fixing scandal had seen them demoted. Despite a nine-point deduction, Deschamps guided the Old Lady to the Serie B title but stepped down at the end of the season after clashes with the board.

Another former club, Marseille, came calling in 2009 and in his maiden season in charge, he managed them to their first Ligue 1 title in 18 years. The following season, Marseille defeated Inter to reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time since 1993 but he could not replicate his Monaco feat, crashing out to eventual finalists Bayern Munich. The French Copue de la Ligue has proved a particular favourite for Deschamps and he led Marseille to three consecutive triumphs between 2010 and 12.

France's miserable 2012 European Championship campaign, during which the fractious and hostile nature of the national side was again well documented, resulted in Laurent Blanc's resignation and the French Football Federation began their search for a coach to steady the sinking French armada. Deschamps' reputation as a Les Bleus legend, combined with his impressive first decade in management, saw him identified as the prime candidate and it was an offer he duly accepted.

France's weakening FIFA ranking meant that they were the unlucky party to be grouped with world and European champions Spain in 2014 World Cup qualifying and despite earning a late draw in Madrid, Deschamps' side were undone by Pedro's solitary goal in Paris, meaning that they finished three points behind Vicente del Bosque's side, qualifying only for the play-offs. While some France fans have argued that the team is still underperforming and a long way from challenging for the World Cup, the 3-0 second leg victory over Ukraine was a compelling demonstration of their abilities, with many calling it their best international performance since their run to the World Cup final in 2006.

Deschamps has often proved that he has what it takes to find a winning formula under pressure and if he can find the right chemistry to bring together the nation's promising collective of individuals, France could well re-assert themselves as a world football power in Brazil.

Strengths: Deschamps has made a name for himself in France, Italy, England and Spain, commanding the respect of his players. He has succeeded in finding a balance of youth and experience to transform the fortunes of every club he has managed.

Weaknesses: Deschamps is sometimes considered very stubborn with his tactics and is reluctant to take risks and have a plan B, even if things are going wrong. He was accused of being defensive and negative in his Marseille days.

Career High: Against the odds and at just 34 years of age, Deschamps was dubbed the 'Prince of Monaco' after guiding the principality outfit to their most impressive Champions League campaign to date, inspiring a youthful side to the final and watching them fire in 27 goals en route.

Career Low: Having finished as winners and then runners-up in his first two seasons in charge of Marseille, Deschamps could only muster a 10th-place finish in the 2011-12 Ligue 1 campaign, leading to his departure from the club by mutual consent.

Tactics: While he preferred to deploy two strikers in his early coaching career, Deschamps has followed the European trend to adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation in recent seasons. His team selection and formation choice were heavily criticised after France's 2-0 playoff first-leg defeat to Ukraine and his decision to revert to 4-3-3 for the second leg suggests that he is still unsure of the national team's best approach.

Quotes: "Deschamps is a great coach. He was a great player, has won everything and knows what it takes to achieve this. In 2000, we had a genius with Zidane but the key was Didier Deschamps." France record appearance holder Lilian Thuram believes former teammate Deschamps is the ideal coach to lead France to glory.

Trivia: Since the inception of the Champions League in 1992-93, Didier Deschamps is one of only nine players to have won the final for two different clubs (Marseille and Juventus). The others are Edwin Van Der Sar, Paolo Sousa, Clarence Seedorf, Christian Panucci, Owen Hargreaves, Samuel Eto'o, Marcel Desailly and Deco.

Words: Max Bentley