Brushing aside talk during the FIFA World Cup as to whether France played attractive football or not, head coach Didier Deschamps on Sunday said all that matters is they are champions and will remain at the top for the next four years.
France clinched their second World Cup after 1998 by beating maiden finalists Croatia 4-2 in a dramatic final at the Luzhniki Stadium here.
Since their drab 0-0 draw to Denmark in the group stages, there has been talk of Deschamps, known for his pragmatic approach, resorting to a conservative brand of football in order to grind out results.
But since the third Group C game, France showed their attacking flair against Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the round of 16 tie, coming from behind to win 4-3 followed by wins over tough teams like Uruguay and Belgium to advance to the final.
At the summit clash, the Les Bleus saw off a resilient Croatia riding a spirited second half display.
“So, of course the question to be asked is always: are France a beautiful champion? Well, we are world champions and France are going to be on top of the world for next four years. That’s what needs to be remembered,” Deschamps was quoted as saying by FIFA at the post match press conference.
A first-ever own goal in a World Cup final gave France the lead as Mario Mandzukic headed a free-kick into his own net in the 18th minute but Croatia pulled level through a strike from Ivan Perisic in the 28th minute.
Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty in the 38th minute to regain France’s lead which was further increased to 3-1 by Paul Pogba in the 59th minute.
Kylian Mbappe (65th) made it 4-1 before Mandzukic pounced on a blunder from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to reduce the difference to two in the 69th minute, giving some hope to Croatia. But the third goal from Croatia never arrived as the talented French side, coached by Didier Deschamps sealed a deserving triumph.
France thus pulled level with South American powerhouses Argentina (1978, 1986) and Uruguay (1930, 1950) as the third nation with two World Cup titles.
“I had a very young group, 14 of them were on a discovery journey in the World Cup. But the quality was there. My greatest source of pride with this group is that they managed to have the right state of mind for such a tournament. I repeat all the time: never give up, never give up anything.
“There are imperfections and today we didn’t do everything right but we do have those mental and psychological qualities that were decisive for this World Cup. In the first half of this final we didn’t have much but we were leading 2-1,” he added.
Deschamps, who captained the title winning 1998 French side, achieved the rare distinction of becoming only the third man, in history — after Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and German legend Franz Beckenbauer — to win the World Cup both as a player and a head coach.
Meanwhile, an elated Atlético Madrid star Antoine Griezmann, who was adjudged the man of the match, said they can’t wait to party with the French people.
“I don’t realise yet what it is. I’m very proud of this team: the players and the staff, the technical staff and medical staff. We were really a united group,” said the France forward.
“We did something incredible, we made history and we are going to enjoy it. We’re going to see our families and we’re going to party. Tomorrow in France will be the same, we’re going to party with the French people.”