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France coach Didier Deschamps on picking his EURO 2020 squad, Karim Benzema and facing Germany first up

"He is happy to be with us, I am happy to have him here," says the France boss about his decision to recall Karim Benzema.

Didier Deschamps leads his France team on a bike ride at their Clairefontaine base
Didier Deschamps leads his France team on a bike ride at their Clairefontaine base AFP via Getty Images

Hired in July 2012, Didier Deschamps has been in charge of France for nearly nine years. Formerly a tigerish defensive midfielder, Deschamps led Les Bleus to a heartbreaking UEFA EURO 2016 final defeat on home soil before making dramatic amends by achieving 2018 FIFA World Cup glory in Russia.

The 52-year-old now aims to do what he did as a player, and follow up a World Cup win with a EURO success. He has already raised eyebrows by recalling 33-year-old Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema to his squad after a five-year absence, and is looking forward to hearing crowds in stadiums again – even if Les Bleus will be playing all their games away from home this time.

EURO 2000 final highlights: France 2-1 Italy

On the challenge of picking his final 26

I have human choices to make and unfortunately some players will be left unhappy. But it is my responsibility. My purpose is always the same: I make choices for the good of the French national team. Some players would definitely have deserved to be there. That’s what my decisions are about, even though the squad is slightly bigger than usual, as I used to call up 23 players rather than the 26 [allowed] this year. But that’s not necessarily an advantage in terms of team management.

We will have to send three players to sit in the stands for every match. But again, it is our responsibility. The 26 players are all happy to be here on the first day, but obviously I understand that those three players won’t be smiling when they’re sitting in the stands for the first match.

Five great Benzema goals

On the return of Karim Benzema

There were a few steps before he came back into the France team. But I won’t go into detail. It is between me and him. The first step was having the opportunity to meet and have a long talk. Then I went through a whole thinking process. So he’s here now. He is happy to be with us, I am happy to have him here, and so are the squad because our purpose is the same. We all want to be as competitive as possible.

What can he bring to the team? What he does. What he’s been able to do with [Real Madrid] over the past few years, and what he used to do with France even if it was quite a long time ago and he is a different player now. He has improved, he is more mature, for sure. But that doesn’t just apply to Karim – it is the same for all players. It is a matter of experience. But he can do a lot. He is a leader from a technical point of view.

EURO 2016 highlights: Germany 0-2 France

On the opening match against Germany?

Am I a friend of Germany boss Joachim Löw? Yes, I am. We have met several times. I admire him for his longevity, which helped him win the [FIFA] World Cup as a coach before I did, back in 2014. We crossed paths in the quarter-finals [in 2014] and they stopped us there. I really like him – whenever we see each other, be it in UEFA or FIFA meetings, we have the opportunity to talk.

When we face each other in a match, we are both focused on the event and on our players. I have a lot of respect for what he has done and, again, his longevity with Germany at such a high level, and despite the few difficult – sometimes very difficult – times he went through. He has made his decision [to step down after the EURO]. If he has made that announcement, it means that is definitely what’s best for him. It will be a great pleasure and will put a smile on my face to meet him in Munich on 15 June.

Watch great France goals

On having fans at the stadiums

We’re playing all our matches away from home, but it’s not a disappointment for me to have people in the stadiums, because football, the football we love, the football we know, means having fans in stands. It is about emotion, about sharing feelings, it is something we like, it is part of our everyday life. It is important for players.

Football cannot solve day-to-day problems or societal issues and suchlike. But for a while, for a match, before a match, in the stadium, people can come together, and knowing they are here to support us, being able to share moments of joy and happiness with them, just like we did during our last competition, is a wonderful thing.

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