France’s manager, Didier Deschamps, has admitted that his team’s poor start in Sunday’s World Cup final could be attributed to a virus, but he refused to accept responsibility for the loss.
After a remarkable 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium, France could not become the first team to retain the World Cup since 1962 when Argentina prevailed in a penalty shootout.
Deschamps’ side got off to a sluggish start, becoming the first team not to attempt a shot in the first half of a World Cup final before Kylian Mbappe’s hat trick forced extra time and penalties.
France’s semi-final victory over Morocco four days prior was played without Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano, both of whom were sick. At the same time, numerous more players reportedly showed symptoms in the days leading up to the final.
After France’s loss on Sunday, Deschamps was asked about the virus’s spread and how it may have contributed to his team’s slow start.
Deschamps speculated that the team’s physical and mental performance had suffered because “the whole squad has been facing a tricky situation for a while.”
“But I had no concerns about the players who started the match. They were 100 per cent fit, but we only had four days since the last game, so perhaps there is some tiredness.
“That’s not an excuse, but we didn’t show the same energy as in previous matches, and for the first hour, we weren’t in the match.
“In those first 70 minutes or so, we were playing a very aggressive and dynamic opponent, and we weren’t at the same level for a number of reasons.
“We managed to come back from the dead and made a magnificent comeback from a very difficult situation.”
Deschamps’ decision to remove Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele from the game before halftime was a statement of his displeasure with France’s performance in the first half.
Despite Deschamps’ and Les Bleus’ inability to win the trophy for the third time, the coach lauded the contributions of newcomers Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani for rejuvenating the game.
“I went through a lot of different emotions tonight,” Deschamps said. “There are some regrets because we were so close to winning, but it wasn’t to be.
“There were a number of reasons why we had a very strong opponent, and we were lacking a bit of energy from some key players.
“We had some young inexperienced players who came on and brought some freshness and quality. They got us back in the match to keep the dream alive.”