France have been dealt a huge blow in their chances of retaining their FIFA World Cup crown on Sunday after it has emerged that a key trio have fallen ill with the flu, just days ahead of the final.
Le Bleu were already missing Bayern Munich centre-back Dayot Upamecano through illness for the semi-final against Morocco on Wednesday. The 24-year-old defender was part of manager Didier Deschamps’ first-choice central defensive pairing, alongside Raphael Varane.
Upamecano only missed the group fixture against Cameroon, at which point France had already qualified for the last 16. But after feeling unwell following the quarter-final against England, the former RB Leipzig star was left out the starting eleven, with Liverpool colossus Ibrahima Konate taking his place.
Another player that missed the encounter with Morocco was midfielder Adrien Rabiot, also through illness. The Juventus midfielder had been a mainstay in Le Bleu’s midfield next to Aurelien Tchouameni but was replaced by Youssouf Fofana, who performed admirably in the former PSG star’s absence.
However, reports emerging on Friday suggests the French trio of Varane, Konate and Kingsley Coman have all picked up the virus doing the rounds in the dressing room, leaving them as doubtful for Sunday’s final against Argentina.
Despite only deputizing for Upamecano in the semis, Konate put in a monstrous performance which led many to believe that the Liverpool star should be the one starting on Sunday in the hopes of stopping Lionel Messi.
However, French excitement may be short-lived after it was reported that Konate and Varane are ill and won’t be participating in training on Friday as a result.
Varane has also been incredible this tournament as he seeks what would be his second World Cup success to go with his four UEFA Champions League titles. The 29-year-old has developed into that calm, experienced figure in the French backline, serving as the leader due to there being a significant age gap between him and the rest of the defenders.
France and Bayern winger Kingsley Coman has also felt unwell over recent days, according to Didier Deschamps. However, given how few minutes the PSG academy graduate has played this tournament, his illness isn’t as concerning as those in the defence.
But Coman’s pace and trickery is a huge asset to have and will undoubtedly be called upon should France need it. Furthermore, Coman’s experience will certainly prove useful having won a league title in every single year since his debut.
The 26-year-old has 11 league titles across playing for PSG, Juventus and Bayern. Not to mention Coman scored the winner for Bayern against PSG in the UCL final in 2020. He knows how to win.
“Coman also had a fever this morning,” said Deschamps on Thursday.
“In Doha, the temperatures have dropped a bit and you still have air conditioning on all the time. We have had a few cases of flu-like symptoms.
“Dayot felt bad immediately after the game against England. It happens when you exert yourself so much, your body weakens and you are more prone to getting these viruses. We’re taking all the necessary precautions, we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t spread, but viruses are of course infectious and we have to take precautions against them.”
The players face a battle against time to be fit in time for Sunday’s encounter as they aim to be the first nation since Brazil in 1962 to retain their World Cup title.