Football: Deschamps to stay for France's 2018 World Cup campaign despite huge disappointment

PARIS (AFP) - Didier Deschamps will remain as coach of France and lead them into the looming 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, despite their stunning upset by Portugal in the European Championship final.

France turned to Deschamps when the pressure was on and he narrowly missed a triumph that would have made him one of French football's true greats.

"The disappointment is there and it's immense," Deschamps said after the 1-0 defeat on Sunday. "We've let a big chance to be champions pass us by."

But the 47-year-old, who won the World Cup and European Championship as captain of France, has no intention of quitting. His contract runs till the 2018 World Cup in Russia, provided they qualify from a group headed by the Netherlands.

"It is lined up like that. I am not going to think about myself," he said.

"I will need time to digest everything. The players are going to start again at their clubs. I am going to analyse things with my staff and we will start again on what is waiting for us in two years."

Deschamps said that "disappointment dominates" among the players after the Stade de France defeat, but that the new generation led by the tournament's top scorer Antoine Griezmann would improve.

"Compared to two years ago, when we were in the World Cup, there we were in a final (on Sunday).

"The young ones will get better and I am very proud by what has been achieved by this group.

"We went to the end. We did not get the reward but I have an extraordinary squad available." Deschamps is one of the rare footballers with the tactical and psychological mastery to play and manage to such success in a major tournament.

As captain of France in 1998 he took control of the dressing room and kept the lid on hothead talents such as Zinedine Zidane as the team won the World Cup on home territory.

He gave up international football after winning the European title in 2000.

Deschamps became coach of Les Bleus in 2012 with their reputation at an all-time low after a player revolt at the 2010 World Cup and top players facing sex-scandal charges.

Aime Jacquet, manager of the French side in 1998, led the tributes to Deschamps.

"He knows how to handle things," Jacquet said. "He's a lad who was already a coach before he became one.

"He's been in this situation as a captain with me, and I can assure you he's controlling everything perfectly behind closed doors," Jacquet told the Fifa website.

Deschamps laughs easily when he is the butt of jokes on the rare television programmes he appears on. But he is a rigid disciplinarian with the French squad.

Lights went out at midnight at the team base players' lounge. Dimitri Payet was given a public rocket for a defensive mistake against Germany in the semi-final.

As a player, Deschamps won the Champions League, French title, the Serie A title and the English FA Cup, on top of his medals with France.

As manager, he took Monaco to the Champions League final and lifted a scandal-tainted Juventus back into the Italian first division in a one-season stay.

On joining Marseille, he immediately guided them to their first French league title in 18 seasons.

Some call Deschamps lucky. At Euro 2016, France scored some late goals to win early games and a quarter-final against Iceland was a godsend.

But the Basque native took over a near-thankless task when he became France coach.

The team was still in shame after the 2010 World Cup strike over a decision to send home striker Nicolas Anelka. When he took over two players faced charges of having sex with an under-aged prostitute. The case was later dropped.

Even in the months leading up to Euro 2016, France has been agonising over Karim Benzema, who was dropped while he faces investigation into an alleged sex-tape blackmail case.

But Deschamps has stuck to his task and built a team around striker Griezmann, midfielder Paul Pogba and goalkeeper captain Hugo Lloris, and earned national respect for his achievements with the team - despite Sunday's bitter disappointment.

Deschamps "has taught them this desire to make people happy", President Francois Hollande said in a tribute on Sunday.