France manager Didier Deschamps was left soaked in beer, champagne and sweat after celebrating World Cup glory with his delirious squad – a moment he will cherish alongside the crowning achievement of his playing career.
A 4-2 win over Croatia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium earned Deschamps access to one of football’s most elite clubs, those who have lifted the World Cup as both competitor and coach.
Only Franz Beckenbauer of Germany and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo have managed the same feat, but neither marked the moment with quite the same outpouring or joy.
As he prepared to begin his post-match media conference Deschamps was mobbed by a conga line of players chanting his name and dousing him with whatever drink came to hand.
He was hugged, squeezed, jostled and cajoled by the young, diverse and talented team he has led to the summit of the sport and he did not attempt to stop them for a moment.
“They are a little crazy, they have always been a little mad,” he said with the broadest of smiles.
“They are young and they are happy.”
At 49 Deschamps cannot claim to be young, but he could hardly conceal his happiness.
“I don’t really like to talk about myself but I am forced to a little bit. I had the immense pleasure and privilege to live through this as a player 20 years ago. It is marked in my memory forever,” he said.
“But what the players did today is just as beautiful and just as strong. I have a son who is 22 and he was too young when we were world champion, now young people are living through this.
“At the moment my players don’t really know what it is to be world champions but I told them two things.
“That these 23 players are linked forever: they may follow different paths but they are marked together by this event. And that they are going to be different now. They are not the same, they are world champions.
“Maybe they will win other titles but there is nothing above world champions.”
France were not perfect en route to the title, arguably being outplayed in the first half despite heading to the tunnel 2-1 up after a Mario Mandzukic own-goal and a debatable penalty from man-of-the-match Antoine Griezmann.
They ensured they left as worthy winners, though, adding fine strikes from Paul Pogba and young player of the tournament Kylian Mbappe against a goalkeeping aberration from Hugo Lloris.
Deschamps happily admits he did not play with the same style as his illustrious predecessors and does not judge the current generation by aesthetics, only achievements.
“The question is, is France a beautiful champion? Well we are world champion and France is going to be top of the world for the next four years,” he added.
“I am in a very tight circle but both (Beckenbauer and Zagallo) were both better than me on the pitch.
“As coaches we lived the same victory. I was not beautiful but I also won. My personal pride is secondary though, I am happier to see the happiness of my players.
“My greatest joy is linked to theirs.”
Deschamps expects more big things from Mbappe, marked by all and sundry as a once-in-a-generation talent, in the future but knows nothing is guaranteed in international football.
“Mbappe is only 19, I hope is a champion again, but 20 years ago David Trezeguet and Thierry Henry were only maybe 19 and they’d become champions again,” said Deschamps.
Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic gave a comparatively sombre address and there were no player break-ins or group singalongs for the runners-up.
But he cut a magnanimous figure, refusing to focus on the controversial decision, using VAR, to award a spot-kick against Ivan Perisic for a handball.
He disagreed, as did many observers, but did not linger.
“I never comment on refereeing but let me say one sentence: in the World Cup final you do not give such a penalty,” said Dalic.
“That in no way diminishes France’s win but maybe we were a bit unlucky. In the first six games we may have been favoured by luck, today not.
“I respect the referee, he gave what he saw fair and square. VAR when it goes in your favour is good, when it doesn’t it’s bad.”
He also praised a group who made history as the smallest nation to reach the showpiece finale and came out in credit.
“We were all sad, downcast but I said to the players ‘hold you heads up high, you have given your all and you have to be proud’,” he said.
“We were dignified in all our victories and are dignified now in defeat. It is football and you must respect the scoreline.”