Hugo Lloris during the press conference at Main Media Center in Doha on Tuesday. Reuters
Mohammed Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
France captain Hugo Lloris stressed that nothing but only the feeling of competition will prevail among the players of both the teams at the World Cup semi-final.
World champions France will take on Morocco in their second consecutive semi-finals at the World Cup. A number of players from both the teams are team-mates in the European leagues.
France’s Kylian Mbappe and Moroccan Achraf Hakimi are team-mates at the Paris Saint Germain (PSG) for one-and-half a year.
Mbappe have scored goals off Hakimi passes and both have enjoyed success at the PSG as team-mates. Both are good friends and get along very well. But the World Cup semi-final is being billed as the Mbappe-Hakimi showdown.
In reply to a question, whether their friendship off the pitch will have any bearing on the semis, Lloris dismissed the suggestion.
“The match will be played in the competitive spirit even if you are friends off the pitch. It is difficult to play against your team-mates and friends but when you are playing in the World Cup semi-finals, the spirit of competition takes over every other feeling,” said Lloris, who was praised for his performance against England in the quarter-finals.
The match between France and Morocco is also being seen as a contest between experience and passion. France are the world champions and bidding to defend their title. They have played in the six semis and this being their second consecutive.
They face giant-killers Morocco, who have defeated four big teams in their runup to the semis. Morocco have been magnificent throughout their campaign.
They don’t have big names like Mbappe and Griezmann but with their sheer passion and teamwork they have scaled the heights unattended by any other African team.
“We have a great respect for Morocco for what they have achieved so far. They have beaten teams like Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
“This shows they are a quality side and they are going to be a tough opponents. We are ready to raise the level and we want to be at the top of our games,” he added.
“He also said that the France team is a perfect blend of youth and experience.
“We have quite a few youngsters in the side, who bring a lot of talent and energy into the team. We have some experienced players as well like Mbappe, Griezmann and myself. We all play together in harmony and complement each other. All of us have great respect for each other,” he apprised.
Commenting on their preparations for the Morocco match, he said: “We know it is going to be a hostile environment and a lot of Moroccans are going to come to support their team.
“We have to remain focused. We have great admiration for them but they are going to our opponents tomorrow. They have a steely defence and have some good players like Hakimi and Zayech.
“These players can make a big difference and they have a very strong and hard-working midfield. We need to show great character and show that we are a great team,” he stressed.
Lloris also denied that Morocco have nothing at stake and France have everything to play for.
“No, I don’t think so. Both the teams have a lot to lose. It is the semi-finals of the World Cup. I know reaching here is an achievement for Morocco but they will not stop here. They will look to go beyond,” he added.
Lloris also revealed that he had texted his England counterpart Harry Kane after the quarter-finals.
“I don’t need to go in depth. But I can tell you that I had sent a message to Harry. It was difficult to find the words. I think he needed some rest. You should respect him for what he has done for his team. Anybody can miss a penalty,” concluded Llrois.
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