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Didier Deschamps' tactical simplicity proved crucial as France won 2018 World Cup

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Often derided in his own country, Didier Deschamps became the third person to win the World Cup as both a player and coach, doing so, like his fellow countryman Zinedine Zidane in the Champions League, with astonishing simplicity.

Advancements in technology have elevated tactical analysis to new heights, with each brand of counter or gegenpressing planned out in full. Emulating a Pep Guardiola side has become top of many a coach’s agenda.

Yet, while Guardiola has wowed the Premier League this season with his innovative systems and match tactics, two Frenchman have shown there is an altogether more straightforward way to win the world’s most illustrious trophies.

“A great coach is being judged on his ability to find a tactical system where his best players can all express themselves at the same time,” Eric Cantona said last year when asked about Deschamps' coaching prowess. "That will not happen when you are being coached by an accountant rather than a visionary.”

That much-criticised accountant’s sums have added up in Russia. France have come up with the solutions time and again, overcoming Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium en route to the final, all without having to tactically outwit a soul.

It is no secret this is a platinum generation in France’s history. Les Bleus possess enough talent in the ranks to put out two golden sides. Nonetheless, they laboured during qualification, famously being held by Luxembourg at home. The critics were rounding on Deschamps.

And such scrutiny seemed to get to the man who captained France to the 1998 World Cup as a player, as he started this World Cup with a rather adventurous front three of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe in the tournament opener with Australia.

However, 70 minutes in and Olivier Giroud was on, and Deschamps had reverted to the more conservative 4-4-2 he prefers, ensuring France are difficult to beat, relying on set-piece goals and moments of brilliance from his talented bunch to win matches.

Giroud has started every game since coming off the bench against Australia, without even registering a shot on target all tournament, but Giroud is there to be that first line of defence, dropping deep to ensure the opposition have to get past an extra layer of protection. It is hardly revolutionary from Deschamps, but my word has it proven to be successful.

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In the final in Moscow, the low-key atmosphere, with a low number of France fans in attendance, suited Deschamps perfectly.

There was also no additional pressure on his side that tens of thousands of Argentines or Brazilians would have put on them. The travelling Croatians had already won and were simply there to enjoy their moment in the sun, knowing full well their exhausted side, who had just battled through three successive extra times, were inferior to the French.

France did look a little open early on in the Russian capital but soon got themselves in front, via a set piece, of course. They then needed the help of VAR, but eventually, France’s quality came through in the second half.

The third and fourth goals summed up just how simple Deschamps' France side approach games. Two quick counters, after setting up to be tough to break down, were finished off by superb strikes from their two most talented players - Paul Pogba and Mbappe.

When you have two stars of such stunning ability you really don’t need to plan a great deal to break teams down. If Pogba doesn’t fire, Mbappe will, and if not them, there is a myriad of talent waiting to pounce. Zidane, at Real Madrid, was blessed with the same luxury.

The fourth most expensive player in history sat on the bench, and rarely got a look in. That is the depth we are talking about here.

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There is a hashtag doing the rounds in France after their success in Moscow, poking fun at the spawniness of Deschamps, but there is nothing fortunate about a manager who has won nine of his 12 games as a manager at the World Cup, the best ratio for a manager that has taken charge of more than 10 games at the tournament.

“The win is not about me, it's the players who won the game,” Deschamps said after the match. “The victory in the match belongs to them. Vive le Republic.”

Except it is about you, Didier, because you let the players do their thing. There were no players marooned out in a position stifling their ability.

Pogba excelled because he was playing in his best position, something Jose Mourinho is yet to see, Mbappe’s pace was perfectly suited to being out wide, while faith in young full-backs paid dividends.

The doubters will linger. France won the tournament without setting the world alight, but Deschamps won’t mind one bit.

He joins Zidane in the pantheon of greats, and will sit alongside his compatriot safe in the knowledge their way, as simple as it is, garners the greatest success.

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Topics:
World Cup diary
Football
Didier Deschamps
Kylian Mbappe
N'Golo Kante
Antoine Griezmann
France Football
Paul Pogba
Olivier Giroud
World Cup

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