Football - France coach Deschamps plays down "great expectations"

France coach Didier Deschamps is wary of increased expectations after his team hit form to beat Netherlands in a friendly on Wednesday.

Reuters

First-half goals from Karim Benzema and Blaise Matuidi set up a 2-0 victory at the Stade de France that seemed to confirm something had clicked in the French set-up following last November's World Cup playoff win against Ukraine.

"You can get carried away, but not too much. We played a good Dutch team but they were without several important players, including (Arjen) Robben," Deschamps said.

"The players have triggered great expectations. It was something important. It will not make us World Cup favourites but it was important to keep the dynamic (after the Ukraine game)," added Deschamps.

"People are loving it. The players have a duty. That (France) jersey must be above everything."

Deschamps has crafted a balanced, young team with Patrice Evra the only over-30 to start Wednesday's game.

Evra, however, appears to be on his way out and looks set to be replaced at left back by 20-year-old Lucas Digne while at centre back Eliaquim Mangala has taken over from the ageing Eric Abidal.

In midfield Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye and Paul Pogba provide an impressive mixture of pace and power, feeding the likes of Franck Ribery, Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Benzema further forward.

Benzema's form has been a key ingredient in France's recent improvement, with the Real Madrid striker cementing his position at the expense of Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud.

"I have two different forwards. Karim was not at his best at some points and Olivier then showed interesting things," Deschamps told reporters.

"But today Karim is at such a high level that it is interesting for us."

Benzema looked razor sharp and his repeated runs in behind the Netherlands back four unsettled the visitors' defence.

His man-of-the-match performance was capped by a fine goal, a half-volley rifled into the net from inside the box.

Under Deschamps, France are slowly burying the ghosts of the 2010 World Cup debacle and a Euro 2012 tournament peppered with off-field trouble.

At the South Africa World Cup, players went on strike to support Nicolas Anelka, who had insulted then coach Raymond Domenech and Les Bleus were eliminated in the group phase without winning a game.

Two years later, they were knocked out in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 by eventual champions Spain after playmaker Samir Nasri, who has a reputation as a troublemaker, was involved in a foul-mouthed rant at a reporter.

Deschamps has said he would not tolerate that kind of behaviour and omitted Nasri from the squad who faced the Netherlands.

France next play at the Stade de France against Norway on May 27, before two further friendlies against Paraguay in Nice and Jamaica in Lille.

They start their World Cup campaign on June 15 against Honduras in Group E, which also features Switzerland and Ecuador.

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