France need 'perfect' game

French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris attends a press conference in Moscow, Russia, on July 14, 2018. France will face Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final on July 15, 2018.
French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris attends a press conference in Moscow, Russia, on July 14, 2018. France will face Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final on July 15, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Lloris aware of opponents' mental strength while Deschamps sees no margin for error

MOSCOW • Captain Hugo Lloris believes France need to play a perfect match to get past a resilient Croatia side in the World Cup final today.

The goalkeeper has revealed that Les Bleus are not being swept up by the wave of celebrations back home and are keeping their focus firmly on their shot of earning a second World Cup title after 1998 when they take on the Croats in Moscow.

"To be honest, we are in our little bubble and we don't know what is happening in France," he told reporters yesterday. "We are far from thinking that we have reached our goal. We will face a high-quality opponent and they deserve as much credit as we do.

"They have displayed their physical and mental strengths and, tomorrow, we will need a great French team to win."

France have never needed to go beyond 90 minutes in their run to the final after beating Argentina in the round of 16, Uruguay in the last eight and Belgium in the semi-finals. But Croatia had to battle from a goal down in all three of their knockout matches to beat Denmark, Russia and England.

They played extra time in all of them and needed penalties against the Danes and hosts Russia.

"Croatia have shown their mental strength - which is quite incredible. There is something special in this team," Lloris warned.

"They also have an incredible collective strength. We have a lot of respect for them. We need to perform at a high level and deliver a perfect match to win."

France coach Didier Deschamps, who captained their World Cup-winning team 20 years ago, agreed that there is no margin for error if they want to be champions today.

"We're not euphoric. Yes, we feel satisfied to reach the final," said the 49-year-old. "The result will show if we did everything right... If something isn't in our favour tomorrow, it'll be bad."

Only Brazil's Mario Zagallo and Germany's Franz Beckenbauer have won the World Cup as both a player and a coach. Deschamps will join them if his team prevail at the Luzhniki Stadium.

 
 

Deschamps' six years in charge have provided not only a French record 52 wins in 82 matches but also saw him deal with the bitter disappointment of defeat at home in Paris by Portugal in the 2016 European Championship final.

But he has been given credit by players and pundits alike for his pragmatic approach and for making bold decisions such as choosing two inexperienced full-backs from the start of the tournament.

Having World Cup debutants Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, both 22, on the flanks now looks inspired.

Lloris, one of nine survivors from the Euro 2016 squad, and his team-mates are eager to repay Deschamps' faith.

"The team's strategy is the coach's responsibility; we should do him justice, as he did everything right, he created a miracle," said the Tottenham Hotspur custodian.

"He changed our playing style, we've found better decisions. Of course, the players' talent and skills matter much, too.

"Everything was great in terms of concentration. I hope we'll have a new chance to show a result tomorrow."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'France need 'perfect' game'. Print Edition | Subscribe