France battle to stop spread of virus on eve of World Cup final

DOHA – Didier Deschamps said Saturday that France were taking “as many precautions as possible” to stop the spread of a virus that is threatening preparations for their World Cup final showdown with Argentina.

Central defensive pair Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate missed training on Friday due to illness, along with winger Kingsley Coman.

Midfielder Adrien Rabiot and defender Dayot Upamecano did not play in Wednesday’s semi-final win over Morocco.

“We are trying to take as many precautions as possible, to adapt as necessary and get on with it,” France coach Deschamps said at a press conference in Doha on the eve of Sunday’s match.

“Obviously it would be better if this wasn’t happening but we are handling it as well as possible with our medical staff.”

Deschamps and his captain Hugo Lloris both insisted they could not offer any health updates, with the team set to train again later in the day.

“I am fine. As for the players, I left quite early this morning so they were all sleeping,” added Deschamps, who spoke to reporters at 11:30 am local time.

“We are trying to handle the situation as well as possible and remain calm and focused.

“I’ll get some more information later today and think about that tonight and maybe tomorrow. And of course we’re looking forward to being ready for this important game.”

Players, staff and other sources close to the squad have spoken of a range of symptoms affecting the team in recent days, including fever, stomach pain and headaches.

Measures have been taken at the team’s hotel, including isolating certain players, but Covid-19 testing is no longer imposed by world governing body FIFA.

France are aiming to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to successfully defend the World Cup.

They are facing an Argentina side determined to win the trophy in what is likely to be Lionel Messi’s last-ever match at the tournament.

“We are never really prepared for this type of thing but we are trying to prepare in the best way possible,” Lloris said of the illness worries.

“We remain focused and of course we’re very excited about playing in a World Cup final.”

Messi factor

France’s quest for historic back-to-back titles may not earn them the backing of too many neutrals while Messi bids to win his first World Cup at the age of 35.

Argentina will also have far more supporters in the crowd at the Lusail Stadium, with up to 40,000 expected in Doha for the occasion, while French fans are set to number around 6,000.

“As long as we have our supporters and our country behind us, nothing else really matters,” said Lloris.

“We came into this competition looking to go as far as possible. Lots of people didn’t believe in us but here we are back in the final again.

“We know what Messi represents in the history of our sport but this is a match between France and Argentina. We will do everything to win this last battle.” – AFP