PARIS: World Cup champions France travel to Joachim Loew’s under-pressure Germany on Thursday in an eye-catching start to the inaugural UEFA Nations League, a competition introduced to replace most international friendlies.
France boss Didier Deschamps has retained the entirety of the squad that triumphed in Russia, with the exception of captain Hugo Lloris and fellow goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, both ruled out by injury.
As just the third man to win the World Cup as both a player and coach, Deschamps is more aware than most of the increased exposure that comes with such success but believes it can serve his team well.
“It’s a galvanising effect to have this title, in terms of confidence,” Deschamps said. “This title of world champion, you have to manage it but it’s not a weight or a burden to carry. It’s quite the opposite. “With all the positive aspects being world champion has brought, on the sporting front but also from a human and psychological standpoint, it’s a huge boost.
Germany, the team France succeeded as World Cup winners, have plenty to prove after a catastrophic group-stage exit that has left Loew fighting to prove he is still the right man for the job.
“We are all being specially observed and put under pressure, I am aware of that,” Loew, who has been in charge since 2006, said last week. “However, I am still convinced of our class and quality. The World Cup squad was very, very good, but we did not perform.”
Roberto Mancini will make his competitive bow as Italy coach at home to Poland on Friday as the Azzurri begin their road to redemption after failing to reach the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
But he touched upon a similar concern to England counterpart Gareth Southgate, whose side host Spain at Wembley on Saturday, as Mancini bemoaned the lack of opportunities afforded to younger players in Serie A.