Ibrahima Konaté: “We need Raphaël Varane.”

Liverpool and France defender Ibrahima Konaté attended his first press conference for the senior national team on Sunday in Doha – topics discussed included the heat in Qatar, the intensity expected from their Australian opponents, Hugo Lloris, Dayot Upamecano, Eduardo Camavinga and more.

On his relationship with Dayot Upamecano:

With Dayot we played together for a very long time, we have chemistry. He’s basically my brother. We are in constant contact, he and I, outside of football… On the pitch I fight for myself first and foremost. There is a good understanding with Dayot but that does not mean I’m going to fight more for him than anyone else.

On making it to the World Cup:

I was slowed down by an injury that lasted several months. I told myself there were still bullets left in my gun with a few big matches to play. I waited for the list like everyone else, I was happy to see myself in it.

On possibly starting vs Australia:

We’ll wait to find out the line-up. Everyone has to be ready to start. It doesn’t matter who I start with, there are 26 of us [actually 25], I’m ready. I’m used to playing as a right central defender with Liverpool but I have performed very well on the left. I don’t necessarily have a preference.

On Karim Benzema’s absence:

I didn’t see him leave. We went to bed. It was late. We heard the news the next morning. It’s a blow for France, it’s one of the things in football. If we dwell on these things then it could be difficult for us.

On the youth and inexperience of this France squad:

I am sad for the injured players. A lot of young players have replaced them. It is a nice opportunity to show our qualities. We need to take advantage and give 1000%.

On not wanting to underestimate Australia:

Around us we will be under a lot of pressure, everyone is expecting for us to be one of the favourites. But when you have a country that pushes you, you play even more with your heart, that becomes complicated for the opponent.

On Raphaël Varane’s fitness:

We are reassured. He is a player with a lot of experience for France and at club level too. We need him. We are making sure that he is ready for the matches to come.

On the competition for a starting spot with Les Bleus:

There is strong competition for places, it’s good, everyone will give 1000%. But once the starting XI is chosen, we will wish the best to those who will be on the field. Am I overwhelmed? No I am good (smile).

On Eduardo Camavinga:

To complete a puzzle you need different pieces. Off the field he is a very good person, he likes to laugh too much, he has to calm down with that (smile). He will bring us things during this competition.

On the climate in Qatar:

We watched a bit of video on Australia, it’s going to be World Cup intensity. We’ll have to take the heat into consideration. I think they’ll be planning for the speed of our attackers. Playing at 10pm will make things easier for us. It’s no excuse because the heat will be the same for both teams but the heat is different from what we know in Europe.

On Hugo Lloris:

I have a certain closeness with him. On the pitch, he gives me some advice on my positioning. What I like in this team is that everyone gets along well, everyone communicates with everyone.

| GFFN

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