No repeat of Euro pain

An emotional France head coach Didier Deschamps celebrating with teenage star Kylian Mbappe, after the team beat Belgium 1-0 in their World Cup semi-final in St Petersburg to enter Sunday's final in Moscow.
An emotional France head coach Didier Deschamps celebrating with teenage star Kylian Mbappe, after the team beat Belgium 1-0 in their World Cup semi-final in St Petersburg to enter Sunday's final in Moscow.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Deschamps wants Class of 2018 to make own history; Mbappe focused on finishing 'job'

ST PETERSBURG • France coach Didier Deschamps challenged his side to erase the pain of Euro 2016 and write "the most beautiful page" in their football history during Sunday's World Cup Final.

The 1998 World Cup winner was in charge when France, favoured to win their home tournament two years ago, fell at the final hurdle against Portugal .

After his side overcame Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday in St Petersburg to earn their shot at a second world title, he explained the experience made their present achievement feel even sweeter.

"It was so painful that we really wanted to taste the victory tonight," Deschamps said.

"We will work hard to be on the right side of the final this time and not let happen what happened two years ago."

Comparisons with the World Cup-winning side Deschamps captained in 1998 arose frequently during his post-match press conference, to which he arrived more than an hour after their victory.

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I'm not saying I'm not proud of what we did 20 years ago, nobody will be able to erase it, but we can't look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror.

DIDIER DESCHAMPS, France coach, exhorting his team to create their own history.

He sought to play down any influence that could have on his players, pointing out that their memories will generally be minimal.

"You have to live in your own times: I never, never, never mention my own history," he said.

"Some of them were not born but saw pictures. It belongs to a lot of French people that lived through it but not the young generation.

"I'm here to write a new page in history, the most beautiful page. I'm not saying I'm not proud of what we did 20 years ago, nobody will be able to erase it, but we can't look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror."

For France forward Kylian Mbappe, the 1998 feat is not an event he can even look back on.

While his breakthrough performance at football's biggest stage has led to talk of winning the Ballon d'Or, the teenager insisted he is concerned only about team honours.

"I couldn't care less about that," he told French TV channel TF1. I want the World Cup. I want to sleep with it!

"I wasn't born in 1998, so I have never seen people on the Champs-Elysees celebrating. I am going to give everything in this final. We will kill ourselves on the pitch to finish the job."

Although he did not add to his three-goal haul in Russia on Tuesday, he was a constant threat on the counter-attack and continued to receive plaudits even as Les Bleus' defenders - including match-winner Samuel Umtiti - grabbed the headlines.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand described Mbappe's pace as "illegal" and told the BBC: "To be 19 years old and creating that panic at a World Cup is huge."

As France marched on to Moscow, Belgium had four days to dwell on their defeat before the third-place play-off on Saturday.

Said Belgium manager Roberto Martinez: "We have to get rid of this feeling and finish on a high as that is nothing more than the players deserve, not to leave with a sour taste."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'No repeat of Euro pain'. Print Edition | Subscribe