France's coach Deschamps plays down final talks, says focus is on semis against Morocco - GulfToday

France's coach Deschamps plays down final talks, says focus is on semis against Morocco


Didier Deschamps (centre) celebrates with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann after their match against England at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Doha, on Saturday. AFP

Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter

The French coach Didier Deschamps played down the talks of already thinking about the World Cup final after their victory over England in the quarter-finals.

France will meet Morocco in the semis on Wednesday.

“I'm sorry but we have a semi-final to play first. So, let's not assume that we're going to go all the way. We're getting closer, but we have a very important step coming up."

“If we want to keep this dream alive, we have to focus on Wednesday first. We can be happy with what we've achieved so far, for a start, even though we want more."

“The title holders haven't had it easy in the past, so I'm glad we've already been able to reverse this particular trend. We have a very important step to take on Wednesday.”

He also said he is relishing the prospect of meeting Morocco in the semifinals of the FIFA World Cup 2022.

France defeated England in the quarter-finals 2-1 after Morocco created history, becoming the first African team to reach the semi-final of the World Cup with a victory over Portugal.

“Few people can say that they expected Morocco to reach the World Cup semi-finals. But for everything they have done and for all the teams they have faced,      for their performances, they've only let in one goal.

``It's a bit of a surprise, but they deserve to be where they are,” said Deschamps.   

“Now, we'll have to face them. Also, they'll have the chance to reach the final too. We should always respect our opponents, all of them. They are where they are because they deserve it. This is something that no one can deny.

“We have to give them credit for their incredible journey so far, as this is the first time an African team has reached a World Cup semi-final. Besides the players, their coach, Walid Regragui, also needs to be recognised,” he stressed.

Morocco have beaten teams like Belgium, Spain and Portugal and drew with Croatia, who defeated Brazil in the quarters, in their run-up to the semi-finals.

Deschamps was full of praise for the Moroccan coach, who took over the reins of the team just a few months  before the World Cup and transformed them into the top four best teams of the world.

“He's worked with the squad for seven months, and despite that, he's managed to beat some of the best national teams."     

Everything that Morocco have done, by beating some great sides, it's extraordinary. Credit must be given to the players, as they are the ones on the pitch as well as to the coach, to the coaching staff. This is a historic moment for them,” he added.

Deschamps said he will not take Morocco lightly as their run-up to the World Cup semis is not a fluke.                                           

“I'll repeat at this stage, this is no longer a surprise. In their performances and in their journey so far, they've demonstrated quality. The results they've achieved haven't come by chance. We always, always have to give credit to the teams that win and progress,” he emphasised.

Talking about the England match, he said: “We came up against an excellent team tonight. They were very technical, and played with so much intensity. Even if we were always in the game, I regret that we gave them chances, such as the penalties we conceded. They missed the second one, luckily for us."               

“But without taking any credit away from my team, we knew how to do things right. We were able to create some dangerous chances before scoring the second. There was actually a brilliant piece of play where Ousmane Dembele setup Olivier Giroud.

“Our quality was probably not enough to win tonight, but luck was on our side. We're experienced too, even if the England team has experience as well. This allowed us to manage the situation. I've got some young players, young in terms of lack of experience.

“They play for top European clubs, but there is a strong collective force that pulls together right from the start. And in matches as important as this one, it's always played out a little, and then it went in our favour.

Talking about the four semi-finalists, Deschamps hailed their performance so far in the tournament as commendable.

“All the four teams left in the tournament, they are the best four in the world and that is why they are here. All of them are very strong and each of them have the potential to play the final of the World Cup.

“There are two spots for the final and four contenders. The best two will advance. Let’s see who makes it to the final,” he added.

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