Australian similarities reason for Ireland's Paris trip
Midway through his press conference at the Stade de France yesterday, Didier Deschamps asked if Ireland had been picked as a World Cup warm-up opponent because they had the potential to boost his side's confidence.
A 4-0 win over Norway four years ago this month was cited as a reference point. France were Brazil-bound at that stage.
"No, no, no," said Deschamps, smiling, as he swatted away the question. "I don't want the translator and the Irish journalists to think that I chose Ireland because I thought we're going to have fun and win. We played Ireland in the Euros and it was very hard. We chose the team because it has the same profile of the ones we face in the World Cup. It's going to be a tough game."
Deschamps went on to clarify that Ireland's direct style offered similarities to Australia, their first opponents in Russia.
Midfielder Blaise Matuidi wasn't entirely on the same page as he suggested there might be parallels with Denmark, who they face in their final group match.
Clearly, the Juventus midfielder had other things to do last November.
Danish coach Age Hareide has managed to cause a bit of a stir locally by suggesting that this French side are nothing special.
That was put to Martin O'Neill during his press conference and he was clearly unimpressed.
O'Neill and Hareide were described as old friends before the World Cup play-offs, although the Danish manager's comments about Ireland's predictable style might have impacted on that.
"He's a very nice man, but he wasn't such a great player himself," O'Neill replied. "It's highly dangerous to talk like that.
"Overall, this France squad is very strong and has as good a chance as anybody of winning the World Cup."
Deschamps' side play Italy on Friday before a final prep match with the USA so they are slowly cranking into gear.
He will try and spread his squad across those games and he will not be fielding a full-strength team this evening with some players just coming to terms with the end of their respective club seasons. Goalie Hugo Lloris will be rested, with stand-in Steve Mandanda set to get a game.
Big guns such as Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba will be kept in reserve. Kylian Mbappe will play, however, with Deschamps asked whether the €180m attacker could play through the middle. He is more likely to deploy him on the left side of his attack.
It wouldn't be a French tournament build-up without some controversy and the decision of PSG's Adrien Rabiot to reject a chance to wait on standby because he is fuming at missing out on the 23 is a local talking point.
Deschamps shrugged it off with an insult. "I'd invite anyone to go and see how he played for the French national team over the past season," he said.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.