Ribeirao Preto Press Conferences 8+9: Nigeria Preparation

Having successfully navigated their way through World Cup Group E, the French players’ attention has now turned to their Round of 16 clash with Nigeria and the press conferences are coming in thick and fast.

Having both impressed in the final group game against Ecuador, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bacary Sagna took media duties on Friday night before Laurent Koscielny and Yohan Cabaye appeared on Saturday lunch time to give their take on the side’s upcoming challenge.


Morgan Schneiderlin:

On the earlier kick-off time against Nigeria: ‘We’ve had to change our routine to get ready for playing the match at 13:00. We’ve been having brunch at 9:30 every day.’

‘Everything passes quickly when you play at 13:00. We’ve been eating pasta and steaks from 9:30 and most of the players really enjoy it.’

‘You think about it less with the games at 13:00.’

On his performance against Ecuador: ‘The match helped me to progress. The collisions and the duels here are at another level.’

‘I can still get better. I wasn’t at 100% in the Maracana but I played well.’

On their preparations for the next match: ‘We treat each match in the same way but it’s a whole new competition now.’

‘We saw in 1998 that it gets harder from the Round of 16 onwards.’

‘Being favourites isn’t something that is hard to live with, we’re going to keep on playing our matches like we have done.’

‘Pressure grows bit by bit. The closer you get to the final, the more you feel it.’

‘We want to play each game like it’s a final. We’re going to maintain our team spirit.’

‘We know all about the physical presence of African sides. They’ve progressed in a tactical sense.’

‘We’re excited about this last 16 match but there are better things to come: quarter finals, semis, a final… We’re keen to go further.’

‘The heat is an important factor but it is also often something that’s in your head.’

On Giroud: ‘Olivier isn’t a dirty player, we simply showed that we’re prepared for the tussles.’

On Sakho: ‘Sakho has played three matches. Mamadou is the vice-captain and an important figure.’

On the period of Ramadan: ‘Ramadan? We haven’t spoken about that yet. You have to respect all religions.’

On Deschamps: ‘Deschamps doesn’t treat players differently. He’s the boss of the team.’

‘His training sessions consist of plenty of games.’

‘He’s the best placed person to talk about this situation, he often tells us how World Cup 98 was decided by such fine margins.’

On Pogba: ‘Paul is a huge talent. You have to remember that he’s still young. He’s going to raise his level in this competition, he has a great feeling for the game.’

On Luis Suarez: ‘Every gesture that we make gets analysed so you have to behave yourself. Suarez? He’s an exceptional player… I’m not going to comment on his behaviour.’

On set-pieces: ‘We don’t work particularly hard on dead balls but we have some great set-piece takers and several players who are good in the air.’

‘We work more on defending set-pieces. We want to limit shots on goal as it’s a game of Russian roulette if you allow them.’

On Matuidi: ‘Blaise offers a very strong physical presence and always gives his all. He’s a machine.’

‘He’s playing a huge part in our current results.’

On resting: ‘At the moment we’re resting and managing our physical conditions. We need to take care of our bodies but we feel physically ready.’

On the World Cup: ‘The World Cup has succeeded in terms of its image. For us as players we all want to win this World Cup.’

‘We keep telling ourselves that we can achieve something special. With the quality of this group, we know that we have the required talent.’


Bacary Sagna:

On preparing for the early kick-off: ‘We have to eat differently and eat well from the morning onward so that we don’t come up short in the match.’

‘The ideal thing to do is get up at 8:30 and eat well. It’s warm at 13:00 and we need to avoid problems.’

On Ramadan: ‘As a Muslim there are a few rules that allow you to move Ramadan so I’m not going to do it.’

‘The staff aren’t changing anything for Ramadan, we haven’t even talked about it.’

On progressing in the World Cup: ‘If we keep pushing then the World Cup will be a success. Ending it against Nigeria would be a failure.’

‘This Round of 16 match is one of the biggest moments of my career.’

‘When we qualified we wanted to have a good competition but aims change and now we’re four matches from the title.’

‘Our three matches so far have given us assurances and now we’re confident.’

On Pogba: ‘We’re lucky to have Paul. He’s a vital player and perhaps one of the best midfielders in the world at the moment.’

On resting: ‘Yesterday we were allowed to unwind and that did us some good.’

‘Physical freshness is an important factor. We have everything that we need to rest in the best way possible here.’

On the feeling in the squad: ‘Our bond is very strong, that’s such an important thing. We want to keep that feeling going.’

On the fans: ‘What has shocked me the most is the unity with the supporters. We were in a hole against Ukraine.’

‘Right from warm-up in Rio we felt like we were in a French stadium. That’s great for us and gives us confidence. We feel appreciated.’

On tough tests to come: ‘We’re expecting to be pushed hard and provoked but we need to stay calm in the times of difficulty.’

‘Pressure can cause you to play differently but we’re preparing in the same way and we want to show the same hunger.’

On Koscielny: ‘Laurent is just being himself. He’s one of the best defenders in the world and brings a lot to this team.’

‘Playing on the left or right isn’t a problem for Laurent, he can use both feet.’

On the Nigeria side: ‘The Nigerians have been on strike [laughs]. That doesn’t change anything, they’re still the best African team.’

‘Tactically the African teams are always prepared. They’re getting stronger and stronger.’

On set-pieces: ‘The goal we conceded against Paraguay demonstrated the importance of defending set-pieces to everyone in the side.’

On the strikers: ‘Olivier [Giroud] and Karim [Benzema] complement each other. Together they make the difference and their partnership has been a success.’

On Varane: ‘Raphael is extremely mature, he’s a pillar in the defence.’

On World Cup 98: ‘In ’98 I was supporting France at home with my family in front of the TV. ’98 was pure magic.’

On his role in the side: ‘Honestly, I’m not thinking about being a starter or not. I’m one player in 23.’

‘I’ve no problem with my role as a sub. It’s a chance to wear the shirt.’

‘Of course, I’d like to be playing but we can’t start with 23 players.’

On Suarez: ‘I’m not talking about Suarez.’

On Enyeama: ‘Enyeama is one of the best ‘keepers in Europe.’



Laurent Koscielny:

On his injuries: ‘I’ve had some tendonitis in my Achilles that I’m trying to deal with. I’ve got a programme to follow to reduce the strain.’

On his position: ‘I’m used to playing on the left and on the right. I play on the left at my club so that’s not a problem.’

‘I’m not competing with anyone, we’re in a group. There’s a good feeling among the four centre-backs. I talk a lot with Raphael just as with Mamadou.’

‘My individual case doesn’t matter. What’s important is Les Bleus winning.’

‘The important thing for me is to make my family proud. In England I’m more well-established.’

‘People can judge my performances. If they think I’m crazy it’s because you’ve said so. I know that I need to focus.’

‘I’m very calm, I don’t speak to the media too much.’

On progressing in the World Cup: ‘From now on the aim is to get as far as possible.’

‘We’ve conceded two goals in three matches on the back of a 50-game season. There have been a few injury problems but they’ve been minimal.’

‘The coach’s experience is important for us going into the last 16.’

‘Any team here can win this World Cup. I’ve been impressed by the physical intensity.’

‘We’re well aware of our qualities and have confidence in our ability. We all want to go as far as possible.’

‘The team that wants it the most will go the furthest.’

‘At the end of the game you can be going home. You need to stay confident. This group is capable of achieving great things.’

On Sakho: ‘I know that Mamadou is a lot better now. He’s going to train this afternoon and it’s up to the coach to decide.’

‘Mamadou is more physical, I’m more about reading the game and making interceptions.’

On Nigeria: ‘Nigeria always play on the counter. They’re very dangerous up front. Odemwingie and Musa are good players.’

‘Odemwingie is quick and skilful.’

‘The Nigerian players can sort out their problem among themselves, we’re staying solid.’

‘We’re focused on this game, there are no small teams left.’

On his performance against Ecuador: ‘We were edgy at the start of the Ecuador game. I raised my game by upping my energy levels.’

On Varane: ‘Raphael is extremely composed as he showed with Real [Madrid]. He’s the future of Les Bleus.’

On Cabaye: ‘Technically he’s a great player, particularly in his holding role.’

‘Cabaye has become indispensable to this France side.’

On the fans: ‘The turning point was the Ukraine game. The image that supporters and the media had of Les Bleus changed.’

‘When things get tough, it’s important to know that we’re supported.’

On the early kick-off: ‘I’m used to playing around 13:00 in England. The heat will be there for both teams but it’s going to be physically tough.’

On the Switzerland match: ‘The France-Switzerland match can be a reference point for us. It was important. We were very solid and knew how to speed up our play.’

‘I was only a sub but the match was great. Everybody had a great time.’

On the World Cup: ‘The level at the World Cup is extremely high. When you see Costa Rica play you know that there aren’t any small sides.’


Yohan Cabaye:

On his role: ‘I want to get back into the team. It was a long night watching the Ecuador game from the stands.’

‘It’s possible that I could lack some rhythm at the start of the match. Deschamps explained to me that he lacked some rhythm in the last 16 in 1998.’

‘I’m in the side to compensate for Blaise and Paul’s attacking forays and to try and break up opposition counter attacks.’

On the early kick-off: ‘Playing at 13:00 changes a fair few things. You need to adapt to the heat and the rhythm of the day.’

‘The early games often lack rhythm, like Italy-Uruguay. We’re going to try to play our natural game.’

On progressing at the World Cup: ‘It’s great to be ambitious but it’s a lot to say that we’re going to win the World Cup.’

‘We can struggle against stronger teams than ourselves.’

‘We’re determined but as soon as we relax we can easily concede goals. We saw that against Switzerland.’

‘We need to keep playing as we can in the Round of 16, that’s the only way we’ll qualify.’

‘I haven’t watched [1998 World Cup documentary] ‘Les Yeux dans les Bleus’ again but it’s better to be actually living the experience anyway. Hopefully we’ll have the same end result.’

On the pressure: ‘The matches will be played under a lot more pressure. We’re not going to add anything extra by talking about winning the final.’

On Enyeama: ‘Enyeama is one of the best ‘keepers in this competition.’

On the Ukraine match: ‘France-Ukraine still stands above any game we’ve played since. I hope that we’ll have a new reference point soon though…’

On Pogba: ‘Pogba is very calm. He’s going about his game after a very long season. I can tell that he’s confident.’

‘He’s managing his emotions well. I don’t know what you’re expecting from him. He can’t dribble past the opposition’s entire team.’

On Valbuena: ‘Mathieu is a very important part of this team. His love for the game and for the ball is helping us.’

On the feeling in the squad: ‘Our feeling hasn’t changed from the group games.’

‘There are natural leaders in the side who talk a lot like Evra and Landreau but it’s important not to get too fired up.’

‘We can’t forget where we’ve come from. Our first round performance should give us confidence but not arrogance.’

‘The machine is well and truly in motion and now have to pay attention to the little things.’

On the side’s support: ‘To be so far from home and be so well supported is very nice. Even more so as it’s quite rare to sense this bond between Les Bleus and the general public.’

‘The joy back home gives us extra strength but we’re also playing for all the people that have travelled over.’

On his routine: ‘I woke up at 8:45 then we had brunch at 9:30 and set off to training at 12:15.’

On his influences: ‘Pirlo is a player that I enjoy watching, he can change matches with his passing.’

‘I also want to mention Gerrard too, he’s a player that I really like.’

On Sakho: ‘Mamadou is a vocal leader and extremely physical in his marking. He tries to change the team’s mentality on the pitch.’

On Koscielny: ‘Laurent is more about anticipation and covering. He’s so cool and calm. He’s a lot more reserved in the group than Mamadou.’

On Odemwingie: ‘Odemwingie is a player I know very well. He’s an excellent player and a great finisher.’

On John Obi Mikel: ‘Obi Mikel is an important player. He’s the base of Nigeria’s collective movement. It will be a true midfield battle.’

On Nigeria: ‘We shouldn’t really base our play on power against them.’

On Matuidi: ‘Blaise doesn’t surprise me anymore. Seeing him battle like he does makes you feel like you have to put in the same effort.’

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