PARIS (Reuters) - Rather like 1998 World Cup-winning coach Aime Jacquet, Didier Deschamps is using a pragmatic, all-about-the-team approach to Euro 2016 as hosts France look to capture their first major title since Euro 2000.
Deschamps, who captained Les Bleus in 1998 and 2000, left out Karim Benzema after the Real Madrid striker was embroiled in an alleged blackmail scandal and did not even consider Franck Ribery after the Bayern Munich forward hinted he could be willing to come back.
Defender Mamadou Sakho was not considered, either, as Deschamps would not risk losing the Liverpool player to a suspension after he was provisionally banned for failing a dope test.
France will kick off the month-long tournament on June 10 with their Group A opener against Romania before taking on Albania and Switzerland.
“My aim was not to pick the best 23 players but to go for a group capable of going very far in the tournament together,” said Deschamps, who took France to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.
It was the same philosophy that guided Jacquet in the late 1990s, when he omitted Eric Cantona from his Euro 1996 squad before France reached the semi-finals and, with a similar group, won the following World Cup.
“I have always thought that the team was above everything else. The decision on Karim has been made in regard to the interest of the squad,” said Deschamps.
Even without Benzema, France are well-equipped up front with Olivier Giroud, Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann — even if the Atletico Madrid forward is enduring a long season that lasts right up to the Champions League final — Andre-Pierre Gignac and Anthony Martial, as well as Bayern Munich prodigy Kingsley Coman.
“The competition in attack is really fierce,” said Deschamps, explaining the absence of Hatem Ben Arfa.
While France built their 1998 World Cup success on a rock-solid defence, notably because they were lacking firepower at the other end, the current squad have a tendency to be shaky at the back.
Fullbacks Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna are no longer at their best while Real Madrid centre back Raphael Varane has failed to impress in La Liga this season.
They will, however, be guarded by a formidable midfield in Blaise Matuidi, Lassana Diarra and Paul Pogba, with Deschamps hoping Pogba will have as much influence as he has had with Juventus.
Editing by Neville Dalton