France head coach Didier Deschamps has suggested that his team were affected by a virus that swept through the squad ahead of their dramatic World Cup final defeat to Argentina on penalties.
Deschamps’ side came back from the dead twice thanks to a historic hat trick from Kylian Mbappe that sent the dramatic tie to penalties after a breathless 3-3 draw.
However, after converting his own spot kick, the Paris Saint-Germain golden boy was powerless to rescue his nation from defeat as Argentina prevailed 4-2 in the Lusail Iconic Stadium after Aurelien Tchouameni and Kingsley Coman missed from 12 yards.
A virus had stretched Deschamps’ already depleted squad, with three players missing the semi-final against Morocco and at least two others affected in the subsequent days.
Those players were passed fit and involved in Sunday’s showdown, and while Deschamps highlighted the effect of the bug on the game, he stopped short of claiming it contributed to the outcome and instead rued fatigue as a potential factor.
“The whole squad has been facing a tricky situation for a while now,” Deschamps said (via Evening Standard). “Maybe that had a physical and psychological impact,”
“But I had no concerns about the players who started the match tonight. They were 100 percent fit, but we only had four days since the last match, so perhaps there is some tiredness.
“That’s not an excuse, but we didn’t show the same energy as previous matches, and for the first hour, we weren’t in the match.”
Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria got on the scoresheet to put Argentina two goals ahead after the 36th minute. With the game slipping away, Deschamps rolled the dice with a double change that raised eyebrows.
He replaced Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud with Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram four minutes before halftime.
“I wanted to make a change because I saw we were lacking freshness and energy,” Deschamps added when asked about his tactical decision.
“I’m not blaming Giroud and Dembele because they made a great effort. There was a change in positions as well, bringing Kylian in from the wing.
“We weren’t in great shape tonight, physically speaking, we lacked a little extra when we were playing a strong team. You need to go back to the drawing board and try to change something when they’re not going right for you.”
There is a considerable question about Deschamps’ future as his contract was due to expire after Qatar 2022 following ten years of service, but the 54-year-old refused to be drawn on his future as Les Bleus coach.
“Even if we’d won, I wouldn’t reply to that question tonight,” Deschamps said. “I’m sad for my players and staff. I’ll have a meeting with the president at the beginning of next year, and then you’ll find out.”
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