Aime Jacquet's coaching career drew to a dream close on 12 July 1998, as the final whistle blew on France's FIFA World Cup™ victory against Brazil. Having led Les Bleus to the greatest triumph in their history, the man in charge decided to call it quits, overcome with euphoria and mentally exhausted after building on the ruins of the team's failed bid to reach USA 1994 – a journey that brought him in for plenty of criticism along the way.

Now retired, Jacquet has been watching with pride as his former captain and pupil Didier Deschamps has steered France to the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2016. Just one step away from another showpiece on home soil, the French are preparing to take on Germany next, and out for revenge for their quarter-final defeat at Brazil 2014. With that massive showdown looming, spoke to Jacquet about the current France side, the challenge of being hosts and his overall thoughts on EURO 2016. What impression has the tournament left on you so far? 
Aime Jacquet:
I was involved in the European Championship in England in 1996 and I think it's a superb competition. It's a wonderful time for shared experiences and emotions. In my opinion, the big international tournaments put football – which is often criticised, sadly – right back where it should be. They give the game a more likeable and attractive face, with the kind of uncertainty that's always present in football. We've seen that even the best teams aren't spared from failure, and I find that constant challenge fantastic. These tournaments also allow each nation to rediscover itself. The stadiums are full, the crowds are happy, and there's singing and different fans mingling.

There have been surprises too, with Wales and Iceland going far and England suffering a shock loss.
I've been very happy to see that because people often say football is all about money. But here we don't have clubs – we have national teams, and that's a completely different story. Take England, for example, who got the result they deserved. The Italians experienced something similar when their clubs brought in the best international players in the world. Their youngsters no longer got a chance to play. In France, we're lucky enough to have the opposite scenario. There's a dimension to national teams at the moment that's more human. The public have really got behind their sides, and we saw that with Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and so on. They've had an entire nation behind them and it's wonderful to behold. I love to see the combativeness of all the smaller teams. Every nation has its pride, makes its presence felt and doesn't let itself be brushed aside. Football is an eternal cycle and we mustn't forget that. What's also pleased me is the respect we've seen between players. And on that point I'd like to say a word about the referees, who've been excellent. You always get mistakes – that's life – but they've allowed games to flow and only intervened when necessary. For me, they're the ones who've initiated the fantastic spectacle we've seen in these games.

The advantages of playing at home are obvious, as France found out at EURO 1984 and the 1998 World Cup.  What are the disadvantages?
Make no mistake, in football it's a huge responsibility to be the hosts. Look what happened to Brazil in 2014. Who'd have thought they'd be humiliated on their own pitch, in their own country? It's a double responsibility for the hosts because they have to be competitive and reach the semi-finals at least. The host nation have to go far and they need the public behind them. It's very difficult to maintain unity. For me, it was very tough indeed. You have to prevent anyone getting distracted, because the players' families and friends are there as well. Not easy! (Laughs) You need to be very vigilant.

Didier Deschamps looks to be managing well so far.
He knows how to handle things. He has all his experience as an exceptional player and a coach at the highest level, and a wonderful personal journey with the France team. He's been in this situation as a captain with me, and I can assure you he's controlling everything perfectly behind closed doors. That's another reason why we're lucky to have players who've played across Europe. Didier played in Italy, England and Spain – and what a fantastic collection of trophies he has.  

He has spoken a lot about you during his time as a coach and national team manager. Is that a source of pride for you?
He had some great coaches like Marcello Lippi at Juve, who's an extraordinary individual. But yes, it's a source of pride. He's a lad who was already a coach before he became one. I was like that too. When I started, I looked after the younger players and I liked to take care of everything, coaching and passing on knowledge. He's a bit like that but with much more knowledge and experience because unfortunately I didn't get to play abroad. Didier knows all there is to know.

Are you still in contact with him?
Yes, from time to time. But right now I know the challenge he's facing is huge, so I'm leaving him alone. I'd never allow myself to do anything to disturb him. We know each other well. He has a job to do, he's living in a bubble and he knows I used to operate in the same way. I don't want to bother him.

Which players in the current France team do you like the most?
A team is all about balance. You need to have a lot of quality but also players experienced enough to cope with big matches on the mental and tactical front. A player's intelligence is called upon at all times during big games, and that's why France are lucky to have players based at the biggest clubs. There are two players who fascinate me, and they are Anthony Martial and Kingsley Coman. They have exceptional technical and physical qualities. They possess incredible power and give off real tactical intelligence. They're the symbols of this new generation which is doing us proud. I was a link in the fantastic French training programme which was there before me and continues to this day. This France team is full of potential.

Were you optimistic for Les Bleus before the start of the tournament? 
I saw them getting to the final with Spain. That said, I was a little worried by all the injuries at the start, because when you lose players of the calibre of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho in such a short space of time, look out! Lassana Diarra was a loss as well. Can you imagine? Luckily it didn't get worse after that, because Didier had worked on his team a lot. The way France have overcome all that just goes to show the effectiveness of his management.

What are your thoughts on the semi-final with Germany?
They're our eternal rivals. They're a fearsome adversary but not unbeatable. They have a generation coming to the end of its cycle and I hope that, with our new generation, we'll be able to come through this test. It'll be very difficult. I saw Germany against Italy, and it was a tight and tactical contest … (sighs) It's in games like that where you notice that teams don't mess around in top-level games. It wasn't spectacular but the players really gave it everything. They worked so hard to get closer to the other team's goal. Because of the physical preparation that players go through in football today, you don't get a lot of favourable goalscoring situations. And then afterwards there was that penalty shoot-out. That's another situation where it's not such a big advantage to be hosts, because you have a huge psychological burden. We saw some great players miss their penalties – it was incredible.