France executed the manager’s game plan perfectly and in Kylian Mbappé they had a player who was almost unplayable at times
Almost 20 years to the day since France beat Brazil 3-0 in Paris to win their first and only World Cup, the man who captained a team that united a nation moved to within 90 minutes of getting his hands on the trophy again. Triumphant as a player back in 1998, Didier Deschamps now has the opportunity to become only the third man to repeat that feat as a manager, following in the footsteps of Brazil’s Mário Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer, the German.
Players, not just managers, win World Cup matches, but this semi‑final victory felt like a personal success story for Deschamps, who tactically outwitted Roberto Martínez, his opposite number. It was a night when France executed their game-plan so perfectly that it seemed strange to think that the country’s longest-serving coach has often been accused of putting together a team with no real identity or style.