France were disappointed they could not successfully defend their World Cup crown after losing to Argentina on penalties in Sunday’s final, but leave Qatar with their heads held high after fighting until at the end, said players Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris.
France fought back twice through Kylian Mbappe, who erased Argentina’s 2-0 lead 97 seconds into regulation time before scoring a third goal in extra time to level the score at 3-3.
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But the South Americans won 4-2 on penalties.
“We are of course very disappointed, we gave it our all. We had to face a lot of obstacles during the competition, we didn’t give up,” Varane said.
“We weren’t in the game for an hour. We could have won too. I’m very proud of this group and of being French. We keep our heads up. We came back to this game when it was complicated.
“We pushed and we believed until the end. We almost overturned the match, which was not going well… There was mental strength in this group, a lot of heart. It allowed us to come back to this game. I’m disappointed but also proud.”
Argentina were the better team in the first half and took a 2-0 halftime lead before Mbappe, who won the Golden Boot for most goals in the tournament, pulled them level. with goals in the 80th and 81st minute of the contest, which France skipper Lloris describes as a “boxing match”.
“The Argentinians got off to a great start, being aggressive, using all facets of the game. We were a bit reactionary all night,” Lloris said.
France also entered the final after several players missed training sessions through illness last week, but Lloris refused to use that as an excuse.
“We are not going to apologize, we gave it our all,” he added. “The guys have to be congratulated because we didn’t give up until the end.”
Manager Didier Deschamps says his side are heartbroken after coming so close to pulling off a remarkable comeback to repeat as World Cup champions.
“We came back from the abyss, that’s what gives us so many regrets,” Deschamps, who guided France to the title in 2018, told a press conference.
“We have a World Cup ball at the last minute, but it wasn’t supposed to be. If we’re 2-0 down and we lose 3-0, it’s different. You say ‘well done’ to Argentina and that’s it.
“I congratulate them all the same, they had a great game, with a bit of play, but we expected it and that doesn’t take anything away from their victory.”
Deschamps’ contract expires at the end of the year but having achieved the goal of reaching the last four, he must decide whether to extend it or not.
“I have a meeting with my president at the start of the year. Then you will know,” said Deschamps, who has been in charge since 2012, reaching the Euro 2016 final, winning the 2018 World Cup, the last year. Nations League and qualify again for the World Cup final.
The coin could have gone the other way, not least thanks to the magnificent performance of Mbappe, who became the second player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.
“He wanted to leave his mark on this World Cup. He did, but not as much as he wanted to,” Deschamps said.