London (AFP) – Stephane Guivarc’h serves as an example to today’s World Cup stars of how a modest striker’s selfless sacrifices paved the way for France’s 1998 triumph, Patrick Vieira told The Times.
Vieira, who set up Arsenal team-mate Emmanuel Petit for France’s third goal in the 3-0 thumping of a listless Brazil in the final at the Stade de France, said playing for the team is more important than an individual’s brilliance when one goes through difficult spells during a major finals.
Vieira, who according to The Times does not believe 1998 team captain Didier Deschamps will repeat the experience as coach of the national side this time round, says players like striker Guivarc’h are indispensable at such moments.
“We didn’t have a high profile number nine like other nations but Guivarc’h was a hard worker who sacrificed himself for team,” said the 41-year-old Senegalese-born former midfielder, who will be donating his fees for the columns for The Times during the World Cup to a children’s charity.
“Whatever anybody else said about him, within the group he knew he was supported for the job he did.
“For any international squad, it is about thinking about the team more than they think about themselves.”
The former Arsenal great — who is presently coaching MLS outfit New York City FC but has been linked with the managerial posting at Ligue 1 side Nice — said the 1998 side epitomised the qualities required to lift a major trophy, something many of them were to repeat two years later when they won the Euro 2000 crown.
“If you want to go far in any tournament, you will have difficult periods,” he said.
“That is when you find the strength of the group, the respect for each other which you need.
“Take ’98. In the last 16, we were drawing against Paraguay into extra time, real pressure just to reach the quarter finals.
“Then we had penalties against Italy. People forget how tough it was. And you don’t win these pressure games just like that.
“It’s about pulling together. Physically, technically, this generation had the lot but they were also smart. We got really bad press before the tournament but we had the experience to deal with it. We had Deschamps, (Marcel) Desailly who knew how to control and to manipulate. Big figures, serious figures.”
Vieira is impressed by England head coach Gareth Southgate after spending time with him prior to his appointment — England is ‘in good hands’ — but added the players need protection from the constant glare of the media spotlight.
“Anyone who has lived in England knows how the national team has suffered,” said Vieira.
“Such passion and such frustration. I think you are on the right path if you can just show patience.
“(Harry) Kane, (Raheem)Sterling, Dele Alli, (Eric) Dier, all young and talented so you have the pieces to work well.
“Now as a first step it is about showing that they can thrive in the shirt, protecting them a little.
“Maybe everyone has a part to play in that -— not just the coaches but the fans, the media.
“They are so exposed. So much focus in England about what the player’s wife does. I think they need to be protected from negative pressure and then they can start to show what they have.”