PARIS (Reuters) - France’s 2010 World Cup debacle ushered in a new era for Les Bleus and the players had better get used to dealing with a high level of public scrutiny, said coach Didier Deschamps.
Under the former France captain, who took over from Laurent Blanc after they were eliminated in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals, the players who once revolted against the national team’s management have been on their best behaviour.
Winger Franck Ribery, banned for three matches for his role in the incident that led the France players to strike in South Africa, has turned over a new leaf and is now hailed as the “jewel of French football” by former captain Zinedine Zidane.
“My playing career has helped me deal with a lot of different situations,” Deschamps, who skippered France to the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 titles, told Reuters in an interview in his French federation office on Thursday.
“I can call on that wealth of experience at any time. But I have to adapt too because it’s a different era.”
The 2010 episode created a huge stir in France as politicians lambasted the players for their acts of petulance and demanded that they show more moral fibre.
“Mentalities have changed. Now the demands are different. In French football there is a before and an after 2010,” said the 44-year-old Deschamps. “Nowadays, there is no room for error for the France international player.”
Last year, France midfielder Yann M‘Vila was banned until June 2014 - later slightly reduced so the final period between March and June is suspended - after pictures of him were posted on Facebook on a night out while on under-21 duty.
Although Deschamps does not advocate taking “radical” measures, he pays close attention to the way his squad behave and stressed that the players should feel honoured they have been chosen to pull on a France shirt.
“What I tell them is that there is nothing more beautiful than the national team’s shirt,” he said.
”Even if they play in big clubs, big competitions and win all the titles, the national team must remain above everything.
”They are different characters with different personalities, but they must stay united. Talent is not enough, it would be too easy. The notion of group is essential. You cannot reach your objectives without team spirit.
“Everybody makes mistakes. (The 2010 episode) is part of their lives, but what I am interested in is what’s ahead of me and I want my players to think that way.”
Win, lose or draw Les Bleus are keen to display a united front and this was evident during their 1-1 draw with Spain in Madrid in their World Cup qualifier last October and last month when they lost 1-0 at home to the world and European champions.
France are second in Group I, one point behind Spain, with three games left as they bid to reach the 2014 finals in Brazil.
Regarding World Cup qualification, Deschamps said: “We had two options - the first one was to finish top of the group, the other to finish second. We’re clearly more on the second solution right now”.
Deschamps also pointed out that because his access to the players is limited, with no matches scheduled until France face Uruguay and Brazil in June friendlies, he relies on the clubs to instil discipline and structure into their lives.
“I don’t have a day-to-day relationship with them, only for a few days before the games,” said Deschamps.
”But they have their clubs. The more they are confronted with the demands of high level (matches) the better. What I ask is that they do everything to be the best individually.
“It will reflect on the collective performance. It’s often details but details added to details help produce great performances. That’s what being a competitor is.”
Apart from his success as a player with France, Deschamps also won the Champions League with Olympique Marseille and Juventus, three Serie A titles and two French league titles.
He knows how to succeed and hopes the seasoned players can instil a winning mentality in those yet to reach such highs.
“If you want to win titles you had better have players who have already won something because they will pass it on to the others,” said Deschamps. “You must always be hungry for more.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar