France legend Marcel Desailly has told Yahoo Sport that France’s World Cup hopes could rest with the tactical planning of coach Didier Deschamps, as he questioned whether his former team-mate could find a winning formula in Russia this summer.
France staged to a fortunate 2-1 win against Australia in their opening World Cup match last Saturday, with their dynamic attacking trio of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé failing to spark in unison.
Desailly was not surprised by that faltering performance as he predicted Deschamps might struggle to get the best out of a talented group of players who have yet to prove they can gel as a team.
“France have a very strong generation of players, but we are looking to coach Didier Deschamps to be inventive to get the best out of them,” declared 1998 World Cup winner Desailly.
“We nearly made it at the Euros in 2016, but we need to find the balance in the team and hope it can come together in time. Do we play two holding midfielders, who plays up front. Plenty of questions, but the answers are there.
“If Deschamps finds the answers, maybe France can become world champions again, but I am not alone in having some doubts about how the coach will handle this situation. Hopefully he can prove us all wrong and get it right in Russia.”
Desailly went on to suggest England could be dark horses to enjoy an extended in the competition, as he backed Gareth Southgate’s youthful side to embrace the challenge of their first World Cup.
“There are not expectations around England and that could be a big help for them,” continues Desailly. “Too many times, I see the media in England saying this is the year we win the World Cup, this is the year it will happen. This time, nothing like this is happening.
“They have a top-class striker in Harry Kane, some good young players who can do well like (Raheem) Sterling, (Dele) Alli and (Marcus) Rashford and then you have a coach who is not burdened by expectations. I like what I see from England and I like the attitude around the squad.”
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Despite their uncertain start in a draw against Switzerland, Desailly is backing Brazil to emerge victorious in Russia, so long as Neymar remains as fit and influential as he expects him to be.
“My favourites for the World Cup have to be Brazil, especially if Neymar is fit,” he added. “They could be amazing and I like what happened in that team after Neymar was injured a few months ago.
“I like what their coach said after Neymar was out. There was no panic. There was no worry about what might happen next. After the injury to Neymar, every player has taken extra responsibility and this is what you want in a team.
“What they cannot have is Neymar back in this team and playing just for himself. They need the team ethic to win this World Cup and everyone needs to understand this, especially Neymar.
“I like what Brazil can bring, with players like Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus. They are a very strong team with players who can make a difference with a moment of inspiration.”
Marcel Desailly spoke to Yahoo Sport at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car event – www.enterprise.co.uk