Deschamps bans World Cup glory talk

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Didier Deschamps has told his players that it is "pointless" to already be thinking of World Cup glory ahead of Monday's encounter with Nigeria in the round of 16.

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France players Bacary Sagna and Morgan Schneiderlin have both talked up their hopes of winning the tournament in recent days, something their coach has tried to play down ever since Les Bleus qualified for the tournament via a qualification playoff last November.

According to RMC, Deschamps even reprimanded the pair for their bold public statements after they secured their path out of the group stage.

"I haven't had to worry about that. I have perhaps spoken to the players concerned," a smiling Deschamps said at his prematch news conference in Brasilia. "The fact that we have ambition is good and you need that. Our reality today is Nigeria in the last 16. To look beyond that is pointless."

France head into the game in the Brazilian capital as favourites to win the tie though Deschamps will not be able to field his first-choice lineup. Defender Mamadou Sakho was able to train on Sunday evening after picking up an injury in the 0-0 draw with Ecuador in Rio de Janeiro last Wednesday, but will not be fit enough to play.

Laurent Koscielny will partner Raphael Varane in the Liverpool defender's stead at the heart of the France defence, while Yohan Cabaye will return to midfield after being rested for the Ecuador encounter.

The former Newcastle United man's Premier League know-how will be crucial against a Nigeria side Deschamps expects will use their muscle.

"They're an athletic side," he said. "The defensive sector stays where it should do and remains organised. Up front, there is power and pace with [John] Obi Mikel, [Ahmed] Musa and [Peter] Odemwingie. They have lost Babatunde to a wrist fracture, but they have several options. They have an attacking quartet that has real pace, with a player like Musa who is a dribbler. And a solid defensive block."

Nigeria's attacking potential was evident as they ran Argentina close in a thrilling final group game. After that 3-2 loss, the squad reportedly went on strike in a row over bonuses to be paid to them.

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has since assured senior squad members the matter will be resolved to their satisfaction, and their coach, Stephen Keshi, hopes their focus will now be on the pitch.

"The bonuses have been paid, there's no problem anymore," Keshi told reporters. "We wanted clarification, and we have got that.

"The players didn't refuse to train, but we were waiting for a decision. We talked to the federation. Time passed, and we forgot to go to training. We took advantage of that time to sort a few things out. The discussion wasn't only about bonuses, because we also cleared up what we did wrong on the pitch during our defeat to Argentina."

Keshi added that the many surprise results at the World Cup so far gave his team hope of toppling a bigger name.

"I hope that we'll be at the same level as we showed in the second half against Argentina," he said. "The most important thing is that my players respect the strategy.

"This World Cup isn't conventional. You never know what's going to happen on the pitch. There have already been lots of surprises. I hope that's going to continue."

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