Against a background of a barely credible list of injuries, image rights squabbles and rumored personal fights, this unified French team is on the brink of history… as William Saliba credits Didier Deschamps for harnessing a positive team environment
Peace has broken out in France’s World Cup camp as pre-tournament discontent has given way to harmony, camaraderie and a sense of joie de vivre as the reigning champions scramble to defend their trophy.
Horrendous injury woes, image rights squabbles and alleged personal differences have subsided and manager Didier Deschamps is now in charge of a team at one with each other as he prepares them for their last 16 game against Poland on Sunday.
Arsenal defender William Saliba was just 10 when his country’s squad went on strike in 2010 under manager Raymond Domenech.
France is a united team – something that couldn’t be said of all their previous teams
The excellent young centre-back has had to get used to not being an automatic starter in Qatar, but is ready when his country needs him.
He said: “We have a great group life in the squad. Everyone gets in and everything counts – not just when we play on the pitch. We’ve been together for three weeks now and how we stand off the field counts for when we’re on it.
“I’m not disappointed to be a substitute. It’s my first World Cup. I am only 21 and young. All players want to start, but it’s not possible so I just have to be ready when the coach calls me again.
The 2010 campaign was defined by the squad rebelling against coach Raymond Domenech
Against the backdrop of a barely credible list of injuries and other reported issues, France have emerged as a major opportunity to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to defend their crown.
“The coach makes sure we all feel involved. We are here with 25 men and we all hope to make it to the end of the tournament.
“For me, the most important players are the older players, the ones who have been here the longest. They give players who just arrived at their first World Cup, like me, a lot of advice.’
Antoine Griezmann, 31, is one of the World Cup stalwarts Saliba is talking about. Qatar is its third final and the man of the match from France’s latest defeat to Croatia four years ago confirmed he was at peace both off and on the pitch.
William Saliba – a testament to the team’s harmony – said he didn’t mind his place on the substitutes’ bench
The players were relaxed figures in each other’s company – it was not reported
After a test period at Barcelona, he re-established himself at Atletico Madrid and calls Deschamps the man with the plan.
The striker explained: “Our coach believes in us as a group, as a team. It’s up to us to have that mentality on and off the pitch.
‘We are on track. We are a group that lives well together. I also see it in training. Everyone is giving 100 percent and we have the perfect setup to take us as far as possible.
‘My joie de vivre? Physically I feel good and I have no problems in my personal life.
“For example, I have known difficult moments at Barcelona and even at Atletico it was complicated at the beginning.
Now I find my way on and off the field. I have every confidence in my club and the French national team. I like to be needed.’
Antoine Griezmann – a veteran of the squad – said he feels good with no problems in his life