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France’s Antoine Griezmann admitted the prospect of facing Lionel Messi would present a totally different size of challenge, after his side saw off an exceptional Morocco team to secure a final showdown against Argentina on Wednesday night.
France are on track to win the first back-to back World Cups in 60 years after their 2-0 win but Griezmann, their outstanding player in the semi-final, said: ‘Any team with Messi in is a totally different proposition. ‘We’ve seen Argentina play and we know how they play. They are a difficult team to play and they seem on top form. It’s not only Messi. They have a strong side around them and they are going to have a lot of support in the crowd. We will be well prepared.’ France coach Didier Deschamps admitted his side face the challenge with a virus in the camp, which forced Adrien Rabiot to miss the game and stay behind at the team hotel. Dayot Upamecano and Kingsley Coman were confined to the bench having been affected by the virus. Deschamps said the French would have to take precautions to prevent the virus spreading, amid falling temperatures and air conditioning systems. Upamecano will be fit for Sunday’s final. Deschamps said: ‘We are trying to be careful it doesn’t spread. Players have made great efforts on the pitch so their immune systems suffer. Your body is weakened.’ If the virus becomes a serious problem, Karim Benzema could technically be called up as he was injured after being named in the squad. Asked if he could conceivably call him up, Deschamps said: ‘I don’t really want to answer that question. Next question please.’ Deschamps, whose players were congratulated by France president Emmanuel Macron in the changing rooms after the win, said that Messi had been in ‘scintillating’ form at this World Cup. He said: ‘Of course he is one of the best players in the world. Of course we are going to try to counter Messi’s influence. But Argentina will try to stop the influence of my players.’ The sides met in the quarter final four years ago, when Messi caught France and Deschamps by surprise, by playing centre forward. ‘Now he is playing in tandem just behind the centre forward, picking the ball up running with it and showing great form,’ Deschamps said. Deschamps becomes the sixth person to manage a side to multiple World Cup finals though only one of the other five have won both – Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in 1934 and 1938. He also won it in 1998 as a player. Les Bleus have never won a World Cup without him, as it happens. He said: ‘We’re going to take the time. I tell this to my staff and players. Take every moment in the day to really appreciate and savour the moment. In four days we are going to play for a world title. We’ll enjoy it now and get ready for the last match of this World Cup.’ Morocco manager Walid Regragui said that his players’ extraordinary run had finally taken a physical toll. He said: ‘In spite of injures and tiredness we pulled out all the stops and gave everything. We caused them problems. I would say at a World Cup this was a step to far. Physically we came up short tonight. We had too many players who were 60/70 percent.’ ‘We started poorly and conceded quickly, that made France confident and keep their shape. You can’t win the World Cup through miracles, you have to do it through hard work and that’s what we’re going to do – keep working.’
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