France can play better but criticism is unfair -assistant coach Guy Stephan

France’s critics were told to lay off the team by assistant coach Guy Stephan on Wednesday, who said they never expected to saunter to victory at the European Championship.

Stephan, himself a former Senegal coach, said those who believed France would have any easy tournament in Germany were misguided.

“We never said that we were going to have a cakewalk, which we were going to win every match. I remember my reaction after the draw. I said ‘be careful’,” he told a press conference.

He did, however, admit that the pre-tournament favourites were not looking as sharp as they might.

“It’s true that at the collective level, we can do better. We must do better in terms of efficiency. But there are also good things. We had more possession, more chances than the opponents. Either we see the bottle half full or half empty. I prefer to see it half full.”

Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann have been singled out for unfair criticism, Stephan added.

“We all downplayed Mbappe’s broken nose a bit. It doesn’t explain everything, but the shock was traumatic. The mask he is forced to play with is not easy, it’s difficult for his peripheral vision.

“He also had a somewhat tiring end to the season. But Kylian remains a top, top level player. There are times when these top-level players are a little less good.

“With Griezmann, we’re talking about a player who has 133 caps, who has scored 44 goals, who, until last March, played more than 80 matches in a row for the France team.”

Stephan said Griezmann continued to be an effective team player, with a subtle influence not always picked up by the pundits.

“We’re not suddenly going to question his input,” he added.

France will have to change their lineup for Friday’s quarter-final against Portugal in Hamburg with midfielder Adrien Rabiot suspended.

“He is an excellent player, very active, who has gained confidence. We must find a solution but the decision (on a replacement) has not been made,” Stephan said.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here