France-England: a quarter-final between two teams that fear each other

“Did you miss me?”, Didier Deschamps laughed, appearing before the press for the first time in five days. The coach, sometimes amused, sometimes a little less, then launched into a verbal ping-pong with a colleague, following a question about the desire of Noël Le Graët to see him extend whatever the result of this quarterfinal. I was waiting for that one,” replied the “coach. It’s very nice what the president said. That’s my answer.”

If he kept smiling on this subject despite a latent nervousness, he did not hide his annoyance on the other hand on an English question about a member of the staff of a base camp of another selection, who died in the first round: “Sorry, we are not insensitive but we are in the competition”.

In French English, Hugo Lloris remained the same on Friday in front of the questions, always very phlegmatic and measured, announcing “the great battle” to come against England or the “detached, smiling, focused” side of Kylian Mbappé before this match. The goalkeeper of Les Bleus did not even raise an eyebrow when he was pointed out that he was targeted by the English press as the weak point of the French team: “They have their opinion and we will have to respond on the field. The same thing happened when a journalist asked him why he took so many risks with his footwork. It’s not for me to judge my performance, it’s for you,” he said. At this level of competition, you have to get close to perfection.”

“Didier Deschamps has created a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts

The French captain, who will beat, at 35 years old (he will be 36 on December 26.) the record of selections he holds with Lilian Thuram (142), was great four years ago in Russia against Uruguay in the quarterfinals of the World Cup (2-0). The one who plays at Tottenham with Harry Kane had pulled out a magnificent and horizontal save on a header of Martin Caceres. The opportunity came from a free kick and the 2022 version of Les Bleus have been working on set pieces in recent days, including corners again on Friday, during the last training session behind closed doors at the Jassim Bin Hammad Stadium.

The sky is expected to be grey today over Doha but rain is not on the agenda, according to the weather forecast. It would be a surprise guest, as a few drops have already fallen this week. There will be no surprises in the starting line-up, the same as against Denmark (2-1) and Poland (3-1). If a few questions turned around Mbappé on Friday, we could expect more from the English media. “There is a lot of talk about one particular opponent (Mbappé) but we are facing France, a fantastic team,” noted Gareth Southgate, a rather smiling England coach, like Kane. Didier Deschamps has created a team that is stronger than the sum of the individualities that make it up.”

Les Bleus do exude confidence. But England is seen as a formidable opponent, “with no weak points”, said Deschamps. We still hope he found some.

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