at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
RIBEIRåO PRETO, Brazil – French Didier Deschamps singled out Raphael Varane and Mathieu Valbuena for special praise for their roles in Friday's 5-2 humbling of World Cup Group E rivals Switzerland.
That result put France on course for a second round place, which they can guarantee by avoiding defeat against Ecuador in their final group match.
Valbuena, 29, rewarded Deschamps's faith in giving him a roving role by producing a lively performance with, including a goal, his sixth in 36 appearances, while Real Madrid central defender Varane played with an assuredness and maturity beyond his 21 years.
Deschamps, who has transformed the spirit and morale within the squad since he replaced Laurent Blanc after Euro 2012, said Valbuena's unorthodox rise through the football ranks was paying dividends.
“The majority of players who follow the same path such as him are stronger for it,” said the 46-year-old, who knows the diminutive forward, nicknamed the little bike, since coaching him at Marseille.
“When players have not come through youth academies and experienced life in lower league football and then have the opportunity to get their foot on the ladder of professional football they are more willing and more determined than others.
“I know him well, he loves football and when he was not playing so well he resorted to working harder so he could get back to his previous level. He has been rewarded today, he has grown in maturity whereas before some things he was doing were superfluous.”
Deschamps, who is bidding to emulate Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Brazilian Mario Zagallo in both winning the World Cup as player and as coach, said Varane was a very special talent.
“There are players who are 30 and don't have the maturity he possesses,” said Deschamps.
“But this is not news to us. He was first choice at Real Madrid under (Jose) Mourinho (in the 2012/13 season), then he had a series of injuries but he came back from those and was selected for the starting XI for last season's Champions League final.
“He is an extraordinary player for the age he is.
“He is bathing in the glory of being first choice at a World Cup finals. He is used to that on a daily basis with Real Madrid. He is calm, serene and one can see that in his face.
“What is more he is comfortable on the ball, it is agreeable for a defender too to be able to do something other than defend.” – Sapa-AFP