Exclusive | Frank Leboeuf: ‘For the sake of football, I want the Euro 2024 final to be Spain v the Netherlands.’

Spain and Germany proved that it’s possible to play another way, and the Netherlands changed their style after the group stage – it’s a different team now – OK they suffered in their last match, but they played football. And it’s interesting to see that some countries are able to play offensively. Yes, you need a defensive structure, I’ve no issue with that and Didier Deschamps is the perfect example of that way of thinking.

The difference between club and international football is that there has always been the challenge to find the alchemy with players who come into the international team but don’t have time to work together. That’s the job of the international manager – to work out who is capable of playing with whom. That’s the job of the manager – and I’m sorry but Gareth Southgate – he doesn’t know how. He is incapable of changing his team, he doesn’t know how to find that alchemy. And it’s his job. He doesn’t have those players every day, but his role is to say can I take that player, that player, can they play together?

In 1996 Aime Jacquet didn’t pick either Eric Cantona or David Ginola. You’ll need to ask him why, there must have been a reason as they were the two best players in England – immense. But they weren’t in the France squad and they weren’t picked in 1998 and we became World champions. They were the best French players, but Aime Jacquet perhaps worked out that it wouldn’t work. That’s the challenge of the international manager. Taking the best current players, the ones who cost the most money is easy. I could also be England coach and say I’ll take Saka, Foden, Jude Bellingham, Kane. You can do it, I can do it if that’s all it takes. But to say, listen Foden, Jude Bellingham plays like this so I can’t play you as it won’t work out, so I’m going to play Anthony Gordon on the left because that will work with Bellingham – that’s the international coach’s job – it’s not just to take the biggest names.

OK, England are in the semis, if they win the Euros everyone will be happy because England has won nothing since 1966, it’s great for England – OK. But god it’s boring! We’re so bored! The same with France. And yet we keep Deschamps because we win.

I don’t know if the criticism of France and Deschamps has been a little harsh – they are trying to play offensively but it’s just that everyone is off form?

Deschamps has 50% of the responsibility as coach, and the players have 50% of the responsibility. When Dembélé shoots over the bar it’s not Deschamps’ fault – he’s picked a player who is capable of scoring goals, yet every shot he has goes over the bar! The same for Mbappe – he can’t run because he’s constantly adjusting his mask. But then there are decisions that have to be taken. They might hurt some players but it’s France! It’s England! You have to find the alchemy so that they can all play together. And when you see England with Saka, Foden, Bellingham – of course, you want to see them all play together but, if it doesn’t work, then you can’t play them all together. And it’s the same with Mbappe, Griezmann, Dembélé. If it doesn’t work, then don’t play them all.

You were a penalty taker. I remember the one you scored, under pressure against Andorra. France finally won a penalty shoot-out against Portugal. Some talk of it being a lottery, but Mbappe says it’s all about the technique. What are your thoughts on how to approach a penalty?

I thought that both France and England were superb with their penalties at the weekend. No complaints – they were all well taken. And when people were speaking about the brilliance of the Portuguese keeper, or of Ronaldo’s missed penalty [against Slovenia], it’s just because they were badly taken. It’s when you hit the ball halfway up the goal in what I call “the gloves area”. When the keeper dives, the first thing he does is to stick his hand out, so if you’ve hit it at that halfway height, then he has a chance. But if you have hit it low or high, it’s impossible for him. The worst thing you can do is hit it at that halfway height. It’s what Ronaldo did, it’s what the three Slovenian players did – there it’s a question of technique. When Mbappe missed his penalty against Switzerland in the last Euro, it was also at that height. If the keeper saves it and it’s been hit low or high – high is the hardest to save – then I have no issue saying that the keeper has pulled off something special. But here, all those that were missed were badly taken. It’s a question of technique – the penalty taker has all the advantages, especially now that the keeper can’t move forward, needs to keep one foot on the line. If you hit it hard and low towards the side-netting, then no one can save it – it’s impossible. So you just have to not take a rotten penalty!

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