Didier Deschamps refused to blame Kylian Mbappé for the missed penalty that sent France to a stunning defeat against Switzerland on a dramatic night in Bucharest. Switzerland scored two late goals within the 90 minutes to send the game into extra-time, after which the PSG striker was the only man to miss in the shootout.
“Nobody can be annoyed with him,” the France manager said. “When you take the responsibility, it can happen. He is obviously very affected by it.”
Mbappé was consoled by teammates after his spot kick, which followed nine perfectly-taken penalties in the shootout, was repelled by Yann Sommer. "Kylian takes responsibility, he feels guilty, but he shouldn't," Deschamps continued. "The squad is united, it always has been."
The France captain, Hugo Lloris, struck a similar note. "We win together, we lose together," he said. "We are all responsible for being eliminated at this stage of the competition. There is no pointing fingers."
Mbappé released a short statement on Twitter. “It is very difficult to turn the page. I am sorry for this penalty. I wanted to help the team but I failed. Finding sleep will be difficult, but unfortunately those are the risks of the sport that I love so much.
“I know that you, the fans, are disappointed, but I would still like to thank you for your support and always believing in us. The most important thing is to come back even stronger next time. Congratulations and good luck to the Swiss.”
It was certainly a collective disaster for France, who recovered from a poor start to open up a 3-1 lead as the game entered its final 10 minutes. Switzerland's race appeared to be run but Mario Gavranovic struck a dramatic equaliser and Lloris admitted France "should have been able to close the game out."
Attention may now turn to Deschamps' future after the world champions, who were clear favourites to win Euro 2020 departed on the back of an abject failure. France looked disjointed in the first half with an unfamiliar back three, partly necessitated by injuries; Deschamps, who is contracted to lead France at next year's World Cup in Qatar, said he would take any blame.
“That is not the question,” he said of his future. “There is a unity and solidarity in this squad. I am responsible, when things go badly, I am with them, they are with me. We will need time to manage this. There are no magic formulas, there are balances for us to find in the future.”
An emotional Granit Xhaka, the Switzerland captain, said his country's first progression to the quarter-final of a major tournament since 1954 – and their first competitive win over France – was a vindication.
“I always said this team deserved a lot more than you read,” he said. “There was so much discussion about this team, they even said we’re arrogant. But I can guarantee you one thing: we really wrote history tonight. All Swiss people, no matter who they are or where they live, all the players, we achieved something. It’s impossible to describe with words. We wrote history and we can be really proud.”
His manager, Vladimir Petkovic, described the result as "very pleasing and very significant" and suggested Switzerland were stronger as the clock ran down. "The team did a fantastic job with its readiness to fight," he said.
“We managed to impose our game and follow our gameplan. We had enough fuel in the tank and maybe more than France; we showed that over the 120 minutes.” - Guardian