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May 13, 2014

Deschamps: Expect no shocks

Didier Deschamps has warned French football fans not to expect any surprises when he announces his provisional World Cup squad on Tuesday evening.

Didier Deschamps faces the press.
Didier Deschamps faces the press.

Johnson: Quarterfinals on?

Deschamps will name a 30-man selection on France's main news programme at around 20:00 CET.

Former France coach Raymond Domenech shocked the nation when he picked Pascal Chimbonda for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, raised eyebrows when he opted for the untested Bafetimbi Gomis ahead of Djibril Cisse for Euro 2008, and then surprised even Marc Planus himself when he called up the Bordeaux defender for the ill-fated trip to South Africa two years later.

Deschamps told RMC there would be no such jaw-dropping moments when he makes his initial squad public, which will feature seven standby players along with his first-choice 23.

"I'm not here to make surprises," he insisted. "That's the media's game. But I won't rule out the possibility of bringing in a player who has never been called up if he can bring something to the squad for the World Cup."

Potential first-time call-ups include Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin, Montpellier's exciting attacking midfielder Remy Cabella and his teammate Benjamin Stambouli. Almost certainly missing will be Manchester City's Samir Nasri and stalwart defender Eric Abidal, who has been erratic in his first season at Monaco.

Though he has strenuously denied it on several occasions, Nasri, 26, has been singled out as a potential troublemaker within the squad, particularly following his tempestuous Euro 2012 where his verbal altercation with a journalist led to a three-game international ban and a year-long exile from the national side.

When Deschamps recalled him for a friendly in Belgium last August and then handed him a starting role in the first leg of France's playoff with Ukraine in November, the former Marseille and Arsenal midfielder was unable to produce anything like his club form for his country.

Deschamps explained form was not the only criteria on which he would base his choices.

"We're going to live together for six weeks. Some players, I don't know which ones yet, aren't going to play," he explained. "There are some who are only going to play a little. I have gone through that as a player. Okay, we had the success that everyone knows about in 1998, but it wasn't easy with certain players.

"Each day that goes by, when you don't play or only play a little, is not easy. But you can't have angels either, who say, 'Hello, thank you, everything's fine'. I don't want that a guy who doesn't play to be happy. It's normal that he's not happy. But it's always the collective interest that comes first."

Given the well-publicised disciplinary problems predecessor Laurent Blanc faced in Poland and Ukraine two years ago and the infamous end to the 2010 World Cup, including the unprecedented players' strike following Nicolas Anelka's exclusion from the squad, it is no surprise Deschamps is keen to place an emphasis on squad harmony.

That need will become all the more acute when the final 23-man squad, which has to be confirmed to FIFA by June 2, arrives at their base camp in Ribeirao Preto, north-east of Sao Paulo, on June 9. However, Deschamps insisted the squad -- unlike in previous tournaments -- would not be kept within the confines of their luxurious hotel.

"We need moments of tranquility and calm, but above all, to not cut ourselves off from the world," Les Bleus' 1998 World Cup-winning captain said, adding he hoped his players would not feed the media's desire for controversy.

"There's going to have to be things to talk about, debates. If we could avoid providing them, that would be a good thing. But we're not going to isolate ourselves. We'll open up. We'll go out. We'll organise ourselves in terms of the fans who'll be there. There are things to do. It's a very nice city."

Such actions would mark a sea change in attitude from previous tournaments, which have left the French public sceptical about the players' committment to the national team's cause. Deschamps believes the divide between the squad and the supporters has narrowed following the scenes he witnessed before and after his team's dramatic second-leg playoff win over Ukraine at the Stade de France.

"In the playoff, they experienced something strong between themselves. There was a connection between them and the fans. That was what sparked this atmosphere," said Deschamps, whose team had lost the first leg in Kiev 2-0 before triumphing 3-0 in the return. "To see people who believed in the team before the match was a driving force behind this team."

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