Famed for captaining France to FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship glory in 1998 and 2000, Didier Deschamps is aiming to replicate his achievements as a player in his new role as Les Bleus coach.
The 43-year-old begins his two-season contract against Uruguay on Wednesday as France return to action for the first time since June's UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-final exit to Spain. "To wear the France shirt was my greatest experience as a player," he said. "It is an immense honour to coach the France national team too, and our immediate aim is to reach the World Cup."
Deschamps' three-year tenure as Olympique de Marseille coach ended in July, with a French League Cup triumph scant consolation for an inconsistent league campaign. Now a new coaching challenge awaits, with France pitted alongside all-conquering Spain in World Cup qualifying Group I, as well as Finland, Belarus and Georgia. The pragmatic tactician remains unfazed: "Spain are overwhelming favourites, but we'll give our all to qualify as group winners."
Revered for his leadership on the pitch, Deschamps is striving to rekindle the faith of a nation. "The players must give everything because the French people need to recapture their pride in supporting the national team," he said. "It has been tough selecting a group of players, though, because the season has only just started."
Deschamps is eager to continue where his predecessor and former team-mate Laurent Blanc left off, turning around a side that performed abjectly at the 2010 World Cup after kicking off their campaign with a 0-0 draw against this week's opponents Uruguay. "I want continuity," he said. "My aim is to continue Laurent's good work. Of course, there are things I will do differently."
One of Deschamps' changes has included offering Rio Mavuba a route back into international football after five years in the wilderness, while he hinted at abandoning Blanc's lone-striker policy. "It is not something I have ruled out," he commented after naming Bafétimbi Gomis, Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema in his first squad.
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