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France coach discusses virus effect after World Cup defeat

Didier Deschamps said his men felt the ‘physical or psychological impact’ of a virus that reportedly affected the France camp

Didier Deschamps has acknowledged the potential effects that illness may have had on his team in their World Cup final defeat to Argentina in Qatar on Sunday. 

The Argentines won their third World Cup title in a dramatic showdown at the Lusail Stadium where a hat-trick from Kylian Mbappe still wasn’t enough for France to retain the trophy they won in Russia four years ago.

Falling 2-0 behind in the first half, Les Bleus were completely overrun by their Argentine opponents until Mbappe bagged a brace in 97 seconds with around 10 minutes to spare of normal time.

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In extra time, Lionel Messi made it 3-2 only for Mbappe to score a second penalty of the tie.

Though Mbappe converted his spot kick past Emi Maritnez in the shootout, misses from Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni proved costly as Argentina became only the third country to win the World Cup on penalties after Brazil in 1994 and Italy in 2006.

Post-match, Deschamps suggested that his men had felt the “physical or psychological impact” of a virus that ran through the France camp before they met La Albiceleste, and had forced Raphael Varane, Ibrahima Konate, and Coman to train separately. 

The trio were deemed fit enough for the match, but with Varane seeming to collapse around the 112-minute mark and France looking unusually sluggish for much of the game, Deschamps suggested the issue could have played its part in the result. 

“The whole squad has been facing a tricky situation for a while now,” Deschamps said.

“Maybe that had a physical or psychological impact. But I had no concerns about the players who started the match: they were 100% fit.

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“We only had four days since the last match so there was some tiredness, perhaps. That’s not an excuse, we just didn’t have the same energy as in the previous match and that’s why, for the first hour or so, we weren’t in the match,” Deschamps added.

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Deschamps, who won the title at France ‘98 as a player, explained that he had spoken to Polish referee Szymon Marciniak after his team failed to become the first country to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

Though he refused to be drawn into saying that officiating had helped Argentina in victory, he did claim that they had been a “little bit lucky” in other moments at Qatar 2022. 

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“I need to be careful – you saw it as well as I did,” Deschamps said regarding Marciniak’s performance.

“It could have been worse, it could have been better. Before this match Argentina had been a little bit lucky but I don’t want to take anything away from them; they fully deserve the title. 

“It is not because we suffered from any decisions that they came out victorious. I just discussed this with the referee after the game but don’t want to go into details.”

After falling short at Euro 2020 and Qatar 2022, Deschamps’ future has been thrown into question with his former teammate Zinedine Zidane tipped to take over. 

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“Even if we had won I wouldn’t have replied [on that topic] tonight,” Deschamps insisted. “I’m very sad for my players and staff.

“I will have a meeting with the president [of the French Football Federation] at the beginning of next year and then you will find out.”

Pushed to comment on his star player, Deschamps said that Mbappe “has really left his mark on this final.” 

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“Unfortunately he didn’t end in the way he would have liked and that’s why he was disappointed at the end of the match like all the players,” he concluded on the 23-year-old, who went home with the Golden Boot for the most goals at Qatar 2022 in addition to a runners-up medal. 

December 19, 2022 at 05:17PM
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