France 'must show quality'

PARIS • The last time both sides met in a competitive match, France put on a performance full of attacking verve to run out 5-2 winners over Iceland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

They have since gone on to lift the World Cup and, while many are expecting the national team to make light work of Group H to qualify for Euro 2020, Didier Deschamps is aware his players can sometimes be their worst enemy.

Ahead of their clash with Iceland at the Stade de France today, the Les Bleus coach said: "A lot depends on us. We have the quality, we all saw that (in the 4-1 qualifying win at Moldova)."

The former Juventus midfielder also backed Olivier Giroud to remain a pillar for the team.

The Chelsea striker has struggled for minutes this term, starting just six Premier League games under Maurizio Sarri, although he has starred in the Europa League with nine goals in as many matches.

Giroud netted three times in France's last six matches in all competitions and his strike last Friday saw him draw level with David Trezeguet as his country's third-highest scorer on 34 goals.

Admitting that the 32-year-old was "quite complementary with the other players", Deschamps told Sky Sports he would continue to lead the line as "his role is different and this allows our team to have a varied offensive play".

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    Goals Olivier Giroud has for France, making him their third-highest scorer, level with David Trezeguet.

He said: "His presence as a pivot is very useful. He scores goals. He does so too with his club."

The 50-year-old also revealed that despite France's heroics in Russia which saw them clinch their second World Cup last July, there were no fears over a lack of commitment to the cause.

Deschamps added: "I wasn't really worried because since the beginning of the week, I had told them what I wanted to tell them about the match through the sessions we had - there was a lot of dedication.

"The players know. The more experienced players I have like that, then the rest of the group follows.

"It seems normal and logical, but I do appreciate the quality and the mindset we have."

France will likely be without Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman for the Iceland game after he suffered a thigh injury in the warm-up for the Moldova opener.

Telling French TV station RMC Sport he was "not here to take chances", Deschamps said: "I have no problem using Blaise (Matuidi), who did not disrupt the collective (as his replacement)."

Lucas Digne will also be another absentee in Paris after the Everton full-back pulled out of the squad yesterday owing to injury.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2019, with the headline 'France 'must show quality''. Print Edition | Subscribe