June 15, 2018 / 12:34 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer: France coach eases injury fears, hails Griezmann decision

KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps eased fears that injury might end right back Djibril Sidibe’s World Cup before it started while welcoming striker Antoine Griezmann’s decision to clear up his club future ahead of their tournament opener.

Soccer Football - World Cup - France Press Conference - Kazan Arena, Kazan, Russia - June 15, 2018 France coach Didier Deschamps during the press conference REUTERS/John Sibley

Sidibe’s injured knee was the worst of a few knocks sustained by France players during preparations for Saturday’s match but Deschamps said everyone in the squad was fit to face Australia at the Kazan Arena.

“All 23 players are available,” Deschamps told reporters on Friday.

“Djibril Sidibe was injured in his last match and his knee reacted. We have had to manage it with the medical staff but he’s here today he’s here with us.

“I will pick what is the best team for France to start the match. Not so much for the opponent but to be dangerous for our opponents, create opportunities and score.”

The World Cup winner said striker Olivier Giroud had had stitches to a head wound but would be able to play with protection, if selected.

Almost certain to start up front is Griezmann, who used a TV documentary on Thursday to announce that he would be rejecting the advances of Barcelona and staying with Atletico Madrid next season.

“This shows two things, firstly his loyalty and commitment to Atletico Madrid,” Deschamps said.

“But most importantly for us, he has cleared his mind ahead of the World Cup and it’s certainly a very good thing for us.”

Deschamps laughed off criticism of the way Griezmann announced the news through a documentary called “The Decision”, joking that he had held the camera, while France captain Hugo Lloris said the striker had come in for some ribbing.

“We took it to the second degree, we laughed,” said the goalkeeper.

“The most important thing is that he feels liberated.”

While dismissing the idea that the relative youth of his squad for the tournament was a “risk”, Deschamps said he was not ignoring the potential threat of an Australia team that has changed its style since Bert van Marwijk took over in March.

“The players are the same but the team has offensive potential,” he said.

“They don’t play long balls. They try to play on the ground, they go to the sides, they go forward. It is well organised and they are highly disciplined ... there is quality.”

Deschamps said the fact that France had only got out of the pool stage twice since he helped them win the World Cup in 1998 was an indication of how tough a task it was, but he felt his squad was up for the challenge.

“We’re going to bite into it with all our teeth like it was a good apple,” he concluded.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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