France wary of England's threat in quarter-final, Deschamps side-steps political issues

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France wary of England's threat in quarter-final, Deschamps side-steps political issues
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France wary of England's threat in quarter-final, Deschamps side-steps political issues
France wary of England's threat in quarter-final, Deschamps side-steps political issues
Reuters
France will have to be on their toes when they face England in their World Cup quarter-final clash as their opponents have players capable of hurting them on the counter-attack and at set-pieces, coach Didier Deschamps said on Friday.

The teams have not met at a major tournament since they drew in the group stage of Euro 2012 but the focus has very much been on the game between two countries that share a sporting rivalry.

Deschamps, who has won the World Cup with France as a player and coach, said he did not see many weaknesses in the England team but they did have some "slightly less strong points".

"Pace is often one of the keys - when you are quick then the opponents have less time to get organised. But you need more than just pace to score goals," Deschamps said ahead of Saturday's game at Al Bayt Stadium.

"You can stop a lot of things but it is very difficult to stop someone very quick, especially in transitions.

"England are very strong in transitions - more than half of their goals have come from quick counter-attacks. But they have other qualities too - they have technical ability, the capacity to score goals and ability on set-pieces."

The spotlight has been on how forward Kylian Mbappe, the tournament's top scorer with five goals, will fare against the England defence, with Kyle Walker saying he would count on his experience of playing him in the past when they square up.

"I'm sure England will have prepared to face him but Kylian is in a position to make a difference," Deschamps said.

"Even in his last match he wasn't at his best, not in top form but still decisive (scoring twice in a 3-1 win against Poland). We have other players that can be dangerous as well."

Inside information

France skipper and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has spent the last decade playing in England with Tottenham Hotspur and the 35-year-old said he would be sharing what he has learned from playing in the Premier League with his team mates.

"Some of us play and train with the English players on a daily basis. If we can help our team mates with knowledge from playing with the clubs, we do," Lloris said.

"They (England) are good on set pieces, they're tall, they have players who can take good free kicks. We have to be very strong, but our attack has what it takes and can make it difficult for them."

France won the World Cup with a stellar run in Russia four years ago but Lloris said it was the England squad that has more tournament experience than the reigning champions.

"If we compare both sides, there were more English players here who were at the World Cup in Russia than France players," Lloris added.

"England reached the semi-finals at the last World Cup and were runners-up at the Euros, there's been a real progression. This team is ready to compete for trophies. They were unlucky at the last Euros, they were close, but they're here to win.

"In our side there are changes, there's a new generation of players ready to compete playing in the best clubs in Europe. It's a good mixture of experience and young players, we're getting stronger step by step."

France focused on the match, not politics

Deschamps said his players are fully focused on the match and cannot be expected to resolve issues outside football in light of the death of a migrant worker in Qatar.

Hosts Qatar launched a workplace safety investigation into the death of a Filipino on Thursday after reports that the man died while working at a training site during the soccer World Cup.

Qatar's treatment of migrant workers has come under enormous scrutiny during the build-up to the tournament but Deschamps chose not to wade into the topic even as he expressed his "sincere condolences" to the family.

When asked about the migrant worker's death during the tournament, Deschamps said: "It's always a sensitive topic, it's not something I want to talk about at length. I've just learned about it.

"It may be a priority for you today but my priority is the match tomorrow. We're involved in a tournament here. That doesn't mean we're totally insensitive to what goes on outside the football, but you shouldn't mix everything up."

Amnesty and other rights groups have led calls for world soccer's governing body FIFA to compensate migrant workers in Qatar for human rights abuses by setting aside $440 million, matching the World Cup prize money.

The French Football Federation has also supported calls for a compensation fund for victims of work accidents at World Cup construction sites. Deschamps, however, said the matter was out of his hands.

"What else would you like me to say? Now I'm not trying to avoid the question. But I'm here with my team, we're footballers and we're here for a football tournament," he added.

"Footballers unfortunately are not in a position to resolve problems outside football. This is more than a problem, of course, someone has lost their life and we need to respect that.

"But it's not necessarily going to help by talking about him. Some might think that talking about him is a way of showing respect, but I think for his family - the pain and suffering they must be feeling - that needs to be respected too."