Matuidi hails France coach Deschamps

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Moscow, July 13 (IANS) France midfielder Blaise Matuidi has praised French coach Didier Deschamps for moulding a team “in his own image” as the former world and European champions prepare for Sunday’s FIFA World Cup final against Croatia.

France are the bookmakers’ favorites to win the clash at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium after they showed impressive defensive discipline under their 1998 World Cup-winning coach, who was himself renowned as a no-nonsense midfielder, reports Xinhua news agency.

“He has created a team in his own image and I think that’s important,” Matuidi told a press conference on Friday.

“He’s trying to recreate his glorious past as a player and so far everything is working. It (France’s progress to the final) hasn’t happened by accident.”

France advanced to their third World Cup decider in 20 years by taking top spot in Group C before winning their knockout stage matches against Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium, each without needing extra time.

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Croatia, meanwhile, have had a grueling path to the final, with all of their three knockout matches — against Denmark, Russia and England — going to extra time. On top of that, Zlatko Dalic’s men also have one less day to recover from their semi-final.

But Matuidi said he did not expect fatigue to be a contributing factor as Croatia strive to win football’s most coveted trophy for the first time.

“We will be facing a very good team, with players that have a very high level and a lot of experience so we need to be focused,” the 31-year-old Juventus star said.

“It’s the game of our lives and there will be pressure. But we have to be positive and not let that inhibit us.”

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Matuidi had words of support for Les Bleus striker Olivier Giroud, who has yet to score in this tournament.

“Olivier has done a lot for the team. He is a great player for us and we are happy with the way he is playing. He has been a little bit frustrated not to score, but it doesn’t matter when we win. His work rate has been very important, both offensively and defensively,” Matuidi said.

–IANS

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