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Blaise Matuidi: “There are no friendly matches when it comes to internationals”

With Les Bleus’ much-anticipated clash against Portugal just around the corner, a week of press conferences with various members of the squad came to a close on Friday with Didier Deschamps and Blaise Matuidi facing the media.

Beyond the inevitable discussions of how to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, both men were able to offer several interesting insights into the feeling within the camp ahead of Saturday’s match.

Blaise Matuidi:

On potentially taking the captain’s armband against Portugal: ‘Will I be captain tomorrow? I don’t know. I’ll leave it to the coach to sort that one out.’

On Karim Benzema: ‘Benzema is a natural leader thanks to his background and his vast experience. He does his talking with his quality on the pitch.’

On facing Portugal: ‘There are no friendly matches when it comes to internationals. That motivation is always there.’

‘Even with two ball-winners you’ve got to pay close attention to getting possession back. You’ve got to offer a sense of solidity.’

‘Portugal have lots of good players, we need to remain focused even though they’ve had a bit of a tough time of late.’

‘We want to start building up some momentum and that will only happen if we produce tomorrow.’

On Cristiano Ronaldo: ‘Right now, Ronaldo is the best player in the world with his impressive stats.’

On the squad’s Marseille contingent: ‘We can sense the confidence among the Marseille players in training. [Dimitri] Payet is on top of his game.’

 

Didier Deschamps:

On his choice of captain against Portugal: ‘Matuidi could well be captain tomorrow, he’s done it before.’

On Ronaldo: ‘Ronaldo is such a decisive player so we need to limit his influence on his side’s play.’

‘Ronaldo isn’t their only player but we definitely need to pay close attention to him.’

‘With Ronaldo you’re talking about a guy who breaks the norm. We can’t afford to move away from our natural game but we definitely have to take a few precautions.’

On the national side’s progress: ‘Our most important area of improvement has been going forward. That requires time and practice.’

‘We have to improve the quality of our crosses.’

‘We’re on a good run in terms of results and team spirit, which is good. We need to keep it going now.’

‘We’ve managed to close the gap between ourselves and the top nations a little bit.’

On Anthony Lopes’ choice to play for Portugal over France: ‘Lopes? Players have a choice and there’s nothing we can do. We’ve lost a big talent though.’

On Steve Mandanda: ‘Mandanda will play tomorrow. He’s playing at such a high level. It’s not easy to come back after a bad injury.’

‘In his recent performances with Marseille, Mandanda has shown that he’s back to his best and that he’s built to be playing at the highest level.’

On facing Portugal: ‘There’s a considerable Portuguese community in Paris and there will be lots of Portugal fans at the match tomorrow.’

‘Our goal tomorrow is to impose our own game on the opposition. We need to force them to defend.’

On playing two games in close succession: ‘There will be changes from tomorrow’s starting XI to the one on Tuesday.’

On the French supporters: ‘We went through a bit of a tough period with the fans recently but things are a lot easier right now.’

‘We’re going to make sure that the fans really get behind us. We want to be a dominant, winning side.’

On the FIFA rankings: ‘Even if we win, our FIFA ranking will go down. You don’t get the same coefficient when playing friendly matches.’

On the playmaker role: ‘[Mathieu] Valbuena and Payet are playing in the same role for their clubs at the moment and I need to be playing people in their best position.’

On Yohan Cabaye: ‘I’m not worried about Cabaye even though he’s not happy. He’s not going to lose his quality overnight.’

J.L.

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