Former captain Deschamps sees France as favourites
Former France captain Didier Deschamps, who led his country to glory at the 1998 World Cup, said the champions are favourites to retain their crown, but warned them not to take anything for granted.
"Today's situation is quite different from the one in 1998," Deschamps said. "We were harshly criticised before the championships (in France).
"Now, everything is smooth and easy. Everyone is banking on France to retain their title. That could be a pitfall, although they are clearly the favourites.
"On paper, they have the best side but they must keep in mind that they will be the side to beat. And it's always hard to prove you are the best."
Four years ago, France, despite playing on home soil, were not fancied as they had never won a major international trophy.
But the squad, patiently put together by coach Aime Jacquet, proved extremely hard to beat, conceding only two goals, including one from the penalty spot, in seven games.
Despite their success, some French newspapers still criticised Jacquet, blaming him for what they considered was a lacklustre strategy.
But the stubborn coach refused to change his approach and when he stepped down after lifting the World Cup, he handed over a solid and experienced team to his assistant Roger Lemerre.
Deschamps, often dubbed Jacquet's spokesman, played a key role in the 1998 campaign, both on and off the pitch.
"To win another title, France will have to keep the same attitude. I think the spirit in the squad was crucial in our 1998 success, as we all got along very well," Deschamps said.
"You need gifted players, you can't go anywhere without talent, but a huge mental strength is required too."
That psychological aspect is the main difference, Deschamps believes, between the present side and those that featured Michel Platini, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez in the 1980's.
France reached the World Cup semifinals in 1982 and 1986 but on both occasions bowed out to Germany.
"Fifteen years ago we had the talent, the skills and the physical shape but we lacked the mental strength we have acquired by playing in great clubs across Europe," Deschamps added.
"Most of the guys who are going to play in South Korea and Japan have worn the colours of famous foreign clubs. And it's going to help them a lot as they are used to the pressure."
Deschamps also hinted that French playmaker Zinedine Zidane would be the key player of the 2002 finals, after an up-and-down tournament in 1998.
Zidane scored two brilliant goals in the 3-0 thrashing of Brazil in the World Cup final four years ago, but he was also suspended for two matches after stamping on a Saudi Arabia defender in a first round game.
"The team doesn't play the same way when he is not in," Deschamps said. "He's the natural leader and his inspiration is huge.
"He has gained experience and he is much more mature. Even if he doesn't like it, he is the leader on and off the pitch."