Football

Deschamps' half-time pep talk does the trick

Deschamps reveals half-time pep talk that roused lacklustre Les Bleus

ROUND OF 16

FRANCE 2

(Antoine Griezmann 57, 61)

REP OF IRELAND 1

(Robbie Brady 2-pen)

Didier Deschamps can come across as quiet and unassuming but, after his team's dismal first-half display against Ireland, the France coach had to shake up his players to turn the tricky tie into a 2-1 victory.

Coming in at the break, the hosts looked shell-shocked after conceding a second-minute penalty that appeared to ebb away all their attacking football.

Passes went astray, balls bobbled off shins and the stop-start nature of the game just reinforced a growing feeling that this young French side needed to be given an electro-shock before they could respond.

"I raised my voice at times, but we also needed calm," Deschamps, who won the European Championship in 2000 as captain, said after the match.

"I had to shake the trees, but there were also players who spoke up, even ones who were on the bench. I think we have a real group and they are all fixed on the objective of winning."

HEATED

Two-goal hero Antoine Griezmann also shed light on the half-time dressing room bust-up.

"We had a bad first half, but a few things were said at half-time," Griezmann said of the heated exchanges between the players.

"It was stormy," added the Atletico Madrid striker. "In the second half, we were more like a team who wanted to fight until the end."

Deschamps said France got better when they shook off the early tension and went "a bit crazy".

"Sometimes, it's difficult. When you concede a penalty at the start of a match, it made us tense and the Irish can play a bit," he said.

While Griezmann's two goals will get the plaudits, it was Deschamps' tactical switch that changed the game completely.

In the first 45 minutes, his forwards were unable to carve up a clear-cut opportunity.

Striker Olivier Giroud often found himself isolated, while Griezmann and Dimitri Payet dropped further and further back to collect the ball, only to find Irish feet snapping at their heels.

"We needed to be calm and had to make sure we didn't fall into the provocations and fouls committed on us," Deschamps said.

His masterstroke was to bring on winger Kingsley Coman for holding midfielder N'Golo Kante after the break, pushing Payet further wide and Griezmann closer to Giroud.

Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi took defensive midfield roles that meant they were now in thorough control of the midfield, enabling them to launch wave after wave of attacks.

REGROUP

"The Irish were regrouped and were playing very low, so I wanted to give us more of an offensive presence. I wanted to stretch them," said Deschamps.

Deschamps said the three tight last-16 matches on Saturday, two of which went to extra-time, showed there are no easy games in the tournament.

"It was hard for us too, but mission accomplished," he said.

"You shouldn't be too calculative. The players need discipline but, sometimes, we're better when we go a bit crazy.

"We really speeded things up and that's when we are most dangerous."

France will switch to the Stade de France in Paris when they go in search of a semi-final place on Monday morning.

- Wire Services.

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