French dreams of winning a Euro 2020 and World Cup double were shown the sortie on Monday night after Les Bleus were beaten on penalties by Switzerland in the round of 16.
The French newspapers responded to the shock defeat with fury, aimed in particular at the tinkering of Didier Deschamps, the world champions’ coach, who was attacked for switching to an untested back three in what one of the papers called “one of the biggest fiascos in the history of team selection”.
The frontpage of L’Equipe, France’s leading sports newspaper, led the nation’s dismay, simply saying “Anéantis” (“annihilated”), while the headline on its match report said: “Tombés de si haut” (“Fallen from so high”).
The paper paid tribute to a magnificent game of football but said France ultimately took “a hell of a slap”.
“It was incredible, majestic, extraordinary, despairing, too, and in the end, the Blues and their supporters have only their eyes to cry on. France is the reigning world champion, she was obviously among the favourites of the event, but she took a hell of a slap on Monday.”
Deschamps gets a kicking after ‘Woodstock du foot’
Libération called the match the “Woodstock of football”.
But the paper blamed defeat on Deschamps, whose team looked lopsided and exposed.
“The French have lived since the draw in Hungary on the imbalance: by bringing in Kingsley Coman at half-time… the coach will not have fought this imbalance but will have encouraged it. The option could have paid off. It turned against the Blues. But got us a big, big football moment.”
Similarly, Le Parisien accused Deschamps’s team of “ridiculing themselves” and escaping for too long with a shoddy defence.
“It was unthinkable to continue living longer with so many defensive weaknesses and the Blues ended up paying for it. Deschamps’s side left Euro 2020, where they will not leave much marks. They were leading 3-1 with no more than fifteen minutes left, but they found the strength to keep ridiculing themselves on a night when everything seemed to be coming together. The attacking trio that the world envies had finally produced the hoped-for sparks… But this France team has too many shortcomings.”
‘One of the biggest fiascos in the history of selection’
In its “Tops and flops” review of the game, Le Figaro wondered where the world champions have gone: “Where is the strength of this French team, a hallmark of the Deschamps era? While the system cobbled together by the coach did not help, many players seemed lost on the lawn. Without a compact bloc, the French have proved powerless against the opportunistic Swiss. Deschamps had lost the recipe that allowed his team to reach the last two finals in a major tournament.”
The paper also accused Deschamps of “one of the biggest fiascos in the history of selection” after he picked a 3-4-1-2 formation that he later abandoned midway through the first half with France trailing.
“The time for accounts and assessments will come very quickly but Deschamps’ men have not lived up to expectations, let alone their status.”
“During the first act, the whole edifice kept rocking, giving the permanent impression of being lost, even on the verge of breaking up. The world champions were nowhere to be seen.”
‘Bucharest terminus, everyone off’
Le Monde said history will be “cruel” if it remembered too clearly Kylian Mbappé’s spot kick, and compared his miss to penalties by some of the game’s best players.
“Bucharest terminus, everyone gets off. History is cruel and will remember that Mbappé has already joined Platini, Zico, Baggio or Beckham in the list of great failed players in the exercise.”
However, Eurosport.fr, in their player ratings, suggested Mbappe was in “the midst of a nightmare”.
Le Parisien‘s Cyril Simon defended captain Hugo Lloris, whose performance he said had papered over gaping cracks in the French defence.
“They didn’t know how to ‘close the shop’. With that expression, Hugo Lloris obviously did not say everything about what was lacking in this team … But he summed up the major shortcomings of this 2021 vintage: a fragility leading to air holes lasting several minutes, or even tens of minutes.”
‘Nothing was going well, and now it’s over’
Meanwhile, Le Parisien said, in a match report with the headline “These Blues did not deserve to go further”, that little went right on a grim night for the French.
“The end of the story was not planned like that, not here, not against the Swiss, not after leading 3-1. Nothing was really going well and now it’s over.”
Patrick Vieira, who played for France when they won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000, told ITV that Deschamps’ team had no cohesion.
“The best team deserve to go to the next round and tonight that is the Swiss,” he said.
“It was a poor French national team. There wasn’t any togetherness, there wasn’t any spirit. We didn’t play as a team so we didn’t deserve to go to the next round.”
What the team said
Deschamps led France to victory at the World Cup in 2018 – and his team had never lost to Switzerland in a tournament.
“It is my responsibility and I told the players that I assume it,” Deschamps said.
“When France win, merit goes always to the players. When things are less good then it is my responsibility. But that’s the way sport is. You have to accept it even if it hurts.”
Deschamps stood by Mbappé whose crucial spot-kick was saved in the shoot-out.
“Of course Kylian, even if he didn’t score a goal (in Euro 2020), he was decisive in many actions that we had, then he took the responsibility to take this penalty and no-one is really angry with him,” Deschamps said.