Varane, Konate and Koeman train as the virus reaches France’s final World Cup plan
Kingsley Coman, Ibrahima Konate and Raphael Varane trained away from the rest of the France squad as the reigning champions tried to deal with a virus that disrupted their preparations for Sunday’s World Cup final against Argentina.
France, who were without Koeman, Dayo Uppicano and Adrien Rabiot due to illness during their semi-final victory over Morocco, implemented hygiene measures in a bid to ensure no more players were infected.
In a situation that brought back unwelcome memories of the Covid-19 pandemic, much of the talk during Friday’s press conference focused more on social distancing and a lot of hand-washing than the prospect of facing Lionel Messi.
This was not how Didier Deschamps wanted to prepare for the challenge of trying to prevent Messi from winning the World Cup for the first time. Upamecano and Rabiot rejoined the main group but Koeman, Konate and Varane struggled and were forced to train indoors on Friday. Midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni and left back Theo Hernandez also trained indoors due to hip and knee problems.
If Konate and Varane are not fit, Deschamps will be left without two of his three midfielders. The duo played well against Morocco. Should they go out, Upamecano, who featured Varane during the quarter-final win over England, could be accompanied at centre-back by Arsenal’s William Saliba, whose only appearance so far was as a substitute in France’s defeat by Tunisia in their last group match.
But Deschamps wouldn’t just worry about his defensive positioning. France is trying to contain the virus, but the fear is that more players will be infected. That would present Deschamps and a team deprived of N’Golo Kante, Christopher Nkunku, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema due to injury before the tournament with a major problem. Lucas Hernandez is definitely not fit. Suggestions for Benzema, who has recovered from a thigh injury, to travel to Qatar and play, as he was never substituted in the squad, remain uncertain.
It would be drastic measure for Deschamps to call up Benzema. And France coped without the Real Madrid striker, as Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann showed attacking performance. For now, their focus is on making sure everyone is healthy in time for the final.
“We are not afraid of this virus,” said Ousmane Dembele. “Dayot and Adrian had a headache, a little stomach ache. I made them ginger and honey tea, and then they felt better. I hope everyone is ready for the final.”
There have been theories that the virus, which caused the flu symptoms, was picked up during the England match. England midfielder Declan Rice missed a day of training due to illness last week.
However, there is no proof of this theory, and another possible explanation is that France fell victim to something that afflicted many visitors to Qatar during the World Cup. There have been many complaints that air conditioning in stadiums, hotels, and media centers was causing sore throats and coughing.
Dembele, who played with Messi in Barcelona, said that France is ready to shatter the dream of the Argentine captain. “Messi is a dream to play with,” he said. “In the dressing room he’s very humble, he helps the younger players and he taught me a lot. It’s difficult to play against him but we’ll do everything we can.
We are fighting for our country, for all the French people. We want the French people to be proud of us. It would be great for Lionel to win but we want to win too.”
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