Flu-hit France dug deep to stage World Cup final showdown

Didier Deschamps saw his France team ‘dig deep’ to beat Morocco and stage a World Cup final against Argentina before revealing that a number of sick players had to be isolated from the rest of his squad before the Sunday’s blockbuster clash.

Lionel Messi and company may be waiting at the Lusail stadium on Sunday night, but the Blues – who could become the first nation since Brazil’s revered 1962 side to retain their status as world champions – were pushed all the way before seal a hard-fought 2-0 win.

Theo Hernandez struck early but Morocco, the first African semi-finalists in history, more than leveled their illustrious opponents before substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s first French goal settled things in the closing stages.

With attention now turning to Sunday’s showpiece final, Deschamps will be keen to be healthy after Adrien Rabiot was left at the team hotel instead of heading to Al Bayt Stadium – while Dayot Upamecano and Kingsley Coman also battled the disease.

“We had a few cases of flu-like symptoms,” Deschamps said.

“In Doha, the temperatures have dropped a bit, you have the air conditioning running all the time. We’re trying to be careful that it doesn’t spread and the players have tried very hard on the pitch and obviously their immune systems are suffering.

“Dayot Upamecano felt ill immediately after the game (from England) – it happens when you exert such effort, your body is weakened and you are more likely to get infected with these viruses.

“We take all the necessary precautions, we try to make sure it doesn’t spread but viruses are of course infectious and we have to take precautions against that. We separated him from the others and from Adrien too.

Theo Hernandez struck from the start as France took the lead (Martin Rickett/PA)

“Kingsley Coman was also feverish this afternoon. Adrien was sick, he was feeling a little better this afternoon but he wasn’t well enough so he stayed at the hotel, we have four days off so he should be better and available for Sunday.

France prevailed the last time the two nations met, Kylian Mbappe scoring twice to eclipse team-mate Messi in a thrilling 4-3 victory en route to the title in Russia four years ago.

Deschamps has been impressed with Messi as he aims to add World Cup success to his stellar career, but believes the defending champions have players who will also require special attention from Argentina.

“Messi has been in scintillating form since the start of the tournament four years ago, things were different of course,” added the former midfielder.

“He actually played as a centre-forward against us, which surprised us four years ago when now he’s in tandem, just behind the centre-forward, he picks up the ball a lot and he runs with it and looks in great form.

French players celebrate

The French players celebrated their arrival in Sunday’s final where they will face Argentina (Adam Davy/PA)

“He’s one of the best players in the world and he’s shown that, so of course we’ll try to counter the threat of Messi and stop him from influencing the game and Argentina will try to stop him. influence of some of my players.

“This Argentinian team is different from the one we played four years ago.

“We have two teams with a lot of quality and it will be up to the key players to make the difference, maybe the team that makes fewer mistakes will win the game.”

With France now set to begin preparations to face Argentina, Deschamps admitted his side were pushed all the way by a Moroccan side who had already beaten Belgium, Spain and Portugal to reach the last four .

“I’m always proud when I achieve such a result and it’s great to have reached the final, it was not an easy victory,” he added.

“We showed our quality, our experience and our team spirit. We had to dig deep even in the difficult moments of the game and as a coach I am very proud and satisfied with my players.

“I don’t really think about myself, but of course I appreciate that we had this success and I’m happy for them.”

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