FOX Sports Insider
DOHA, Qatar — Ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final, France head coach Didier Deschamps is nervous.
Not about facing Argentina, with all due respect to Lionel Messi and company; Deschamps’ squad is afraid of no one, and as defending champion has no reason to be.
What has got the coach concerned is that his squad could be further stricken with a virus that has hit at the worst possible time, and which already ruled out two key players for Wednesday’s semifinal victory over Morocco.
“We are trying to be careful, so it doesn’t spread,” Deschamps said, talking about the bug that has left players with flu-like symptoms and prevented defender Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot from playing the semi.
“Players have made great efforts out on the pitch and obviously their immune systems suffer,” he continued. “Upamecano felt sick immediately after the (quarterfinal). It happens when you make such an effort, your body is weakened, and you are more prone to be infected by these viruses.”
Despite all the pre-event talk of sweltering Qatari weather, temperatures have fallen steadily over the course of the past five weeks. The last time a game in the tournament kicked off before 6 p.m. local time was on Nov. 28 and the late evenings are now decidedly brisk.
With the shift in climate and his players coming in and out of air conditioning when they venture from their hotel to training, Deschamps was keen to ensure appropriate recuperation to keep his squad as healthy as possible before Sunday’s showdown (10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).
“We are taking all necessary precautions, we are trying to make sure it doesn’t spread, but viruses are of course infectious and we have to take precautions against it,” Deschamps added. “We separated Upamecano him from others and Adrien as well.
“In Doha, temperatures have fallen a little bit, you have air conditioning which is on all the time.”
The changing of seasons, especially when moving toward a cooler time of year, is often an issue for professional athletes, who tread a fine line between pushing their bodies to the limit in training and maintaining a strong level of overall health.
The Netherlands was affected enough before its round of 16 victory over the United States that coach Louis van Gaal’s typical method of playing a full 11 v. 11 game two days prior was scrapped as there were not enough available bodies.
Deschamps is determined to ensure nothing disrupts final preparations for his bid to help France retain the trophy won in Russia four years ago. Rabiot was ordered to remain in his room at the team’s base, according to French media reports. Winger Kingsley Coman was also feeling “feverish,” according to the coach.
There have been no reports of illness in the Argentina camp, just a couple of question marks over injury concerns. Messi was seen holding his hamstring during his team’s semifinal win against Croatia, but insisted he was at full strength and would be so again for the final.
Ángel Di María may also come into the reckoning for the final after receiving treatment on a muscle issue in his foot.
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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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