Deschamps remaining calm ahead of Dutch assignment
France host Netherlands in a key Group A clash in Paris
Arjen Robben: “France may have better players but it does not mean we are not confident of a good outcome.” Photograph: Yoan Vala/EPA
France boss Didier Deschamps has stressed the importance of his players remaining calm about the situation in their World Cup qualifying group and approaching Thursday’s match against Holland without fear.
Sweden have replaced the French in the automatic qualification spot at the top of Group A after an incredible long-range, stoppage-time Ola Toivonen goal saw them defeat Les Bleus 2-1 in Stockholm last time out. Both sides have 13 points from six games, with Holland three points worse off in third.
When asked ahead of the clash with the Dutch at the Stade de France if the loss to Sweden had raised doubts about automatic qualification, Deschamps said: “Why doubt? “Twelve points remain to be distributed. First place remains accessible. It is therefore useless to sound the alarm bell. “We are not in danger, even if our situation is inevitably less comfortable than it was before we played in Stockholm. A qualifying phase is never simple.”
He added: “It [the match] is very important, without being decisive, because there will be three more matches after. There is a legitimate agitation around – and it is up to us to ignore it. It is not by going into Thursday with fear in our belly that we will achieve our ends.”
Deschamps has included Kylian Mbappe in his squad, despite the 18-year-old sensation not playing in Monaco’s last three matches amid talk of an imminent switch to Paris St Germain.
There is no place, though, for fellow forward Ousmane Dembele, who had been absent from Borussia Dortmund’s training sessions before completing a mega-money move to Barcelona earlier this week.
Holland winger Arjen Robben has described Mbappe as a “great talent” and has no doubt France have the better players of the two sides. But he has also emphasised that while the Oranje may accept that, it does not mean they do not believe they can achieve a positive result on Thursday.
“Mbappe is a great talent and a young boy with a great future,” said Robben. “France is bursting with individually strong players. It’s not important who’s favourite – they may be. If you look at both teams, enough is said. France may have better players but it does not mean we are not confident of a good outcome.”
As well as 33-year-old Robben, another experienced figure in Dick Advocaat’s Holland squad is the recalled Robin van Persie, the 34-year-old striker whose last cap came in 2015.