Deschamps warns France to up its game against English
PARIS (AP) France coach Didier Deschamps warned his players they are fighting for their places in the friendly against England on Tuesday.
The match follows France’s 2-1 loss at Sweden on Friday in a World Cup qualifier. The loss, gifted to Sweden in the last seconds, dropped France to second place in Europe Group A and allowed the Netherlands - the next opponent in qualifying - to close within three points.
Deschamps guided France to the European Championship final last year with a settled side, but results since then have been inconsistent, and he thinks some players must raise their game.
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“No one has any guarantees,” Deschamps said at a news conference on Monday. “It can happen that you’re not in good form for one or two games. But there are quality alternatives available.”
Although Olivier Giroud maintained his fine form with another goal against Sweden, the rest of the forward line - Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann and Moussa Sissoko - was poor.
Deschamps may be tempted to try something new against England, a game he says has more importance given the result in Sweden.
“I won’t say that I’m not taking that game into consideration. It was a cruel defeat and it’s important to finish the season on a high note,” he said. “Whoever starts needs to play as well as they can. Will it change things for August (against the Netherlands)? I’ll think about and analyze it afterward. A team can always be modified.”
Deschamps wants a marked improvement in defense against an England team led by striker Harry Kane, who is brimming with confidence after 29 Premier League goals. Kane grabbed a last-gasp equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Scotland in a qualifier on Saturday.
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“The highest level isn’t just about attacking well it’s about defending as well,” Deschamps said. “We will face an England team with a lot of attacking potential.”
Poor marking allowed Sweden to equalize, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris - normally reliable - handed the Swedes victory by rushing out of his area and haphazardly passing to a Sweden player who then lobbed him.
Deschamps said the best thing for Lloris is to face England, to prevent him dwelling on his blunder.
“Hugo will be captain. Obviously I’ve discussed things with him,” Deschamps said. “If he’d seen things differently, I might have changed my decision. But we both thought it was the best thing for him to do, it was clear.”
Teammates have rallied around Lloris.
“When you’re playing in his position, you always pay dearly for a mistake,” center half Raphael Varane said. “The team has total confidence in him. We know that he will save us again in the future.”
England manager Gareth Southgate will rest his No. 1 Joe Hart, giving backups Tom Heaton and Jack Butland a chance to impress.
Heaton will start and Butland will play the second half, Southgate said on Monday.
Heaton helped Burnley to stay in the Premier League.
Butland recently returned from injury to play in Stoke’s last five Premier League games, keeping three clean sheets.
“We’ve got to maintain the squad environment (where) people feel involved,” Southgate said. “In the past, one or two goalkeepers have sort of given up international football because they’ve not had that chance.”