Mbappe And Deschamps In The Firing Line After France's Shock Euro 2020 Exit

After Les Bleus crashed out of Euro 2020 against Switzerland, it is their star striker and manager who will face the brunt of criticism
15:58, 29 Jun 2021

It didn’t take long for the bitter and angry recriminations to start after France, the pre-European Championship favourites, crashed and burned in Bucharest – eventually going out to unfancied neighbours Switzerland on penalties after surrendering a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes of normal time remaining in their last-16 tie. 

The main two in the firing line were coach Didier Deschamps – at the helm for nine years having steered Les Bleus to World Cup success in 2018 – and Paris Saint Germain striker Kylian Mbappe, of whom so much was expected following his explosive performances in Russia and since then for his club.  

Mbappe finished the tournament not only as the villain of the shootout, but without a goal and the subject of reports he can be a disruptive influence in the group. A united France team might have seemed almost unbeatable with the frightening talent at their disposal, but, with their early exit, the sense of shell-shock pouring off the players and fans alike was palpable.  

Deschamps, of course, has plenty of credit in the bank, with a Euros final reached on home soil five years ago even before the World Cup win. And his current deal runs to the next World Cup in Qatar, with previous talk even of an extension after that from FFF president Noel Le Graet. 

Were it not for that, Deschamps, also captain as France won the World Cup and Euros back-to-back in 1998 and 2000, might in all likelihood have been gone by the end of the week, because this was a truly gutting, devastating defeat for the French with so many things going wrong - and mistakes and problems exposed in the team collective, and with the coach’s decision-making. 

France, who eventually lost 5-4 on penalties with Mbappe seeing the 10th and decisive kick saved by Yann Sommer, simply didn’t turn up for the first half on Monday night. Part of that was down to a new back three defensive set-up, unfamiliar to all those involved with their clubs.

FranceSwitzerlandjpg

The absence of two high-class left-backs, the injured Lucas Hernandez and Lucas Digne, was certainly a setback, but the gamble of changing the whole system and bringing in Clement Lenglet, rather than deploying Adrien Rabiot as a stand-in full-back, backfired horribly. 

Deschamps hooked Lenglet at half-time reverting to a back four, and even if the team collective was not functioning properly with Lenglet and Benjamin Pavard also coming in for criticism, individual brilliance from Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba almost got France out of jail. Pavard conceded a penalty missed by Switzerland that would have put them 2-0 up on the night. 

But the enigma wrapped in a conundrum that is Pogba, after a quite magnificent display to that point, again showed the lack discipline that drives managers and pundits to distraction by surrendering possession too easily in the 90th minute for Switzerland to break and level at 3-3. 

Deschamps took off one likely penalty-taker in Antoine Griezmann with the score at 3-2, and then less understandably another in two-goal Benzema in extra time. But some of the criticisms extend beyond one disastrous evening in Romania. 

There has been a sense that Deschamps, who did not finish his post-match media duties until 2am on Tuesday morning, has been struggling to control the many strong egos in the France camp, and that some of the former total command of the dressing room has ebbed away. There were even reports in France that a number of key players were not getting the prescribed amount of sleep, staying up late watching Netflix and playing video games. 

Didier Deschamps
Didier Deschamps

Though there were many calls for Deschamps to go from supporters online the day after the night before with Zinedine Zidane a popular replacement option, it seems highly unlikely the coach will be fired - so if he is not leading France out in Qatar next year it will be because the man himself has had enough, and believes he can take the team no further.  

And that inwardly reflective process from a calm and analytical coach will take weeks, not days. Expect no knee-jerk decisions, with the next action World Cup qualifiers in the autumn. 

Deschamps, asked about his future, shrugged off the question while taking responsibility for what had happened. He said, "My future, that is not the question. I know how football works, and accept my responsibilities, there are no problems with that. When you are winning, the credit rightly goes mainly to the players. When you lose, the coach is to blame. We will need time to manage this. It’s a horrible moment, but part of football. 

“Kylian took the responsibility to take this penalty and no-one is really angry with him. Going out like this really hurts, there’s a lot of sadness and if we think too much about this match it won’t help us. This Euros was really difficult, that is not an excuse - and the last European champions and the last world champions have already gone home. It hurts, but we have to accept it.” 

There was no huge queue of France players running up to console Mbappe after his penalty miss, with Everton defender Lucas Digne, not even playing, a notable exception. 

The 22-year-old forward rushed out an apology to fans on his Instagram page. It read, “There is a huge sadness after this elimination. We were unable to achieve our goal. I am sorry for missing the penalty. I wanted to help the team, but I failed. It is going to be hard to sleep, but this is one of the hazards of football, the game we love so much.” 

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