France’s World Cup triumph was forged from pain
Didier Deschamps, captain of France’s first World Cup champion in 1998, coached the second one Sunday and said the title might not have been won but for the disappointment of losing the European Championship two years ago in Paris.
France entered the Euro final unbeaten but couldn’t score against Portugal, losing 1-0 in extra time. It was a crushing defeat but one Deschamps said set the foundation for the World Cup victory.
“Two years ago, it was so, so painful,” he said. “Maybe if we’d been European champion we wouldn’t be world champions today. I learned a lot through this final.”
Deschamps entered the post-match news conference wearing a loose-fitting pullover, his hair wet from champagne following France’s 4-2 win over Croatia.
“It’s the third time I’ve changed and I still smell just as bad,” he said.
He hadn’t even heard the first question before he would need another change, after his players burst into spraying more beer and champagne on their coach — and many of the media members in front rows.
“They’re young and they’re happy,” Deschamps said when order was restored. “I’m not sure where we’re going to go, but we’ll be swimming in happiness.”
Protest group Pussy Riot, long a thorn in the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed responsibility for a four-person pitch invasion early in the second half of Sunday’s game.
With Putin and other dignitaries watching from a suite, stewards tackled the three women and one man who charged onto the field in the 52nd minute.
Croatia defender Dejan Lovren pushed the man, helping a steward to detain him, and suggested the incident put Croatia off its game. It was down 2-1 at the time.
“I really was mad because we’d been playing at that moment in good shape,” he said. “We’d been playing good football and then some interruption came. I just lost my head and I grabbed the guy, and I wished I could throw him away from the stadium.”
Before being hauled away, one of the women reached the center of the field and shared a double high-five with France forward Kylian Mbappe.
“Hello everyone from the Luzhniki field, it’s great here,” the punk-performance group wrote on Twitter. It also released a statement calling for the freeing of political prisoners, an end to “illegal arrests” of protesters and “political competition” in Russia.
Foreign dignitaries guest list Sunday included Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, host of the next World Cup.
Macron joined the French players in the victorious and champagne-soaked locker room after the game.
World Cup awards
Despite being shut out in his team’s final two games, England’s Harry Kane won the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s leading scorer with six goals. The Golden Ball, emblematic of the tournament’s best player, went to Croatian captain and midfielder Luka Modric.
Mbappe, 19, who scored his team’s final goal to become just the second teenager to score in a World Cup final — Pele was first in 1958 — was named the tournament’s best young player. Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois won the Golden Glove as the top goalkeeper.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.