Written by 10:14 World

At Euro 2024, France Stars Pivot From Political Fight to a Soccer One

For once, Didier Deschamps could reflect on a news conference that passed by almost without incident. Given the timing, that had seemed unlikely. On Sunday, French voters had issued a stinging rebuke to their country’s resurgent far right in a seismic legislative election. On Tuesday, the country’s increasingly activist soccer team will face Spain in a European Championship semifinal.

Sandwiched between the two was an appearance by Deschamps, the coach of the French national team, in the full megawatt glare of the world’s news media. Although he has always been studiously inscrutable, his players have not. Over the past month, a half dozen members of his squad have made their feelings on the rise of the National Rally perfectly clear.

The forward Marcus Thuram called on the French to “fight daily” against the threat of the far right. The defender Jules Koundé expressed his hope that the country would reject those who “seek to take away our freedom.” His teammate Ibrahima Konaté urged that power should not be handed to “certain people who are intent on division.”

Deschamps, then, may well have been expecting awkward exchanges on Monday. Instead, he found himself fielding the sort of questions that must have come as blissful relief. How fit was Kylian Mbappé? What does he think of Spain’s midfield?

There was only one moment of tension. Deschamps had been asked by a Swedish journalist if it might be fair to characterize his France team as a little, well, boring: It has, after all, managed to reach the semifinals of the tournament without scoring a goal from open play.

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Last modified: 10 July 2024
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