France manager Didier Deschamps reserved special praise for William Saliba following his international debut and Les Bleus’ 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Friday night.
The reigning world champions came through a tough contest against Les Elephants in the first of their two friendlies this international break, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and a late Aurelien Tchouameni winner.
Deschamps opted for a back-three at the Stade Velodrome, starting Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane and Lucas Hernandez, and Saliba was afforded his international bow shortly after the restart, replacing Man Utd’s star centre-back in the 58th minute.
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It’s just the latest milestone in Saliba’s fledgling career as his stock continues to rise after a highly-impressive season on loan at Marseille from Arsenal, in which he has appeared 40 times across all competitions, with Jorge Sampaoli’s side currently second in Ligue 1.
Paris Saint-Germain duo Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe were treated to a frosty reception in Marseille, but there was no such treatment for Saliba, and following the contest, Deschamps spoke in glowing terms of the young Arsenal defender.
When asked whether he was concerned about playing Saliba with such a cacophonous atmosphere playing out, Deschamps responded: “No I wasn’t scared. It’s good for [Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi], even if I would have preferred [the cheers] to be for everyone.
“They are two young players who have a lot of maturity. William is incredibly calm.”
Deschamps went into further detail about some of the other leading lights in his squad, highlighting influential midfield duo Tchouameni and Paul Pogba as two of the key difference-makers on the night.
He continued: “Aurelien, through this match, was at a high level. He has enormous potential with a lot of control and he had already shown it before. The young are growing and that’s good.
“With Paul, I ask them to form a pair. Aurelien has this ability in aggressiveness and recovery which is superior to Paul, who is more forward-looking. This duo worked well.”