Ecuador vs France: France reap rewards of Didier Deschamps’ decision to ditch the troublemakers

Having nearly fluffed their chance of being at the World Cup altogether, France are turning into a team that look like they could win it

rio de janeiro

Around the French camp over the past week, Patrice Evra has apparently been keen to make sure everyone actually catches the mood of optimism. He’s been telling younger team-mates to savour the jubilant atmosphere, to enjoy properly a hugely promising World Cup for the squad so far.

“Don’t worry more than is necessary,” the 33-year-old has said. He would know all about how damaging that can be. Anxiety and agitation have been the prevailing moods of French campaigns from before he first made his debut in 2004. Evra entered a team still recovering from the dismay of 2002 and remained present through the shambles of Euro 2008, the shame of 2010, right up to the 2-0 first-leg defeat to Ukraine in the play-off for this very World Cup.

As regards that last match, it is remarkable just how much has spun on one recovery. The 3-0 second-leg win was, according to French Football Federation president, Noel Le Graet, “a sea change”.

Didier Deschamps’ side are now on a wave. The performances in this World Cup have washed away 12 years of rancour. Now, there is only freshness, hope and enjoyment. It is all so different for France. It has also been a very long time coming, but has had a remarkably quick effect.

The glee has been evident in every facet of their games so far, from the thrilling 3-0 win over Honduras to the stunning statement of the 5-2 victory over Switzerland. As they prepare for today’s final group game with Ecuador, they are up there with the most prolific teams in the tournament.

 

Some quiet caution is necessary. The mood may have picked up momentum precisely because of the lower quality of opposition, and there is no doubt Swiss naivety played into French feet. Similarly, it has been argued that Franck Ribéry’s injury has freed players on the pitch.

At the same time, the work that Deschamps has done to foster the right atmosphere – and thereby the right play – should not be dismissed.

Most obviously, he used the first-leg defeat to Ukraine as an excuse to do everything on his terms; to excise troublesome players. Samir Nasri has been the most conspicuous absence, but it has had a conspicuous effect. Deschamps has repeatedly said it is not just about talent any more. After 12 years of torrid atmospheres, it is about character; about the collective.

From there, he has put in place a well-balanced 4-3-3 formation that has got the best out of virtually every player. Those to benefit most are the midfield trio of Paris Saint-Germain’s Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba of Juventus, and Yohan Cabaye, formerly of Newcastle and now of PSG, along with – one of the standout players of the World Cup so far – Karim Benzema.

With three goals in two games, the Real Madrid forward is in the form of his life. He also symbolises the team in another way. Benzema was one of the much-heralded 1987 generation, who won the 2004 Under-17 European Championship. Among them were Nasri and the troublesome Hatem Ben Arfa and Jérémy Ménez.

Benzema is the only one left. He was the only one with the right attitude.

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis