Varane, Konaté and Coman train separately as virus hits final World Cup plan in France | France

Kingsley Coman, Ibrahima Konaté and Raphaël Varane trained apart from the rest of the France squad as the defending champions tried to cope with a virus that has disrupted their preparations for Sunday’s World Cup final against Argentina.

France, who were without Coman, Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot through illness in their semi-final win over Morocco, have taken hygiene measures to ensure no more players fall ill.

In a situation that brought back unwanted memories of the Covid-19 pandemic, much of the talk during Friday’s press conference focused more on social distancing and lots of hand washing than the prospect of facing Lionel Messi.

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This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, the Guardian has covered the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is compiled on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football homepage for those who want to delve deeper into issues off the field.

The Guardian’s coverage goes well beyond what’s happening on the field. Support our investigative journalism today.

Photo: Caspar Benson

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This is not how Didier Deschamps would have prepared himself for the challenge of preventing Messi from winning the World Cup for the first time. Upamecano and Rabiot rejoined the main group but Coman, Konaté and Varane struggled and had to train indoors on Friday. Midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni and left-back Theo Hernandez also trained indoors due to hip and knee problems.

If Konaté and Varane are unfit, Deschamps would lose two of his three key centre-backs. The duo played well together against Morocco. If they are absent, Upamecano, who was at Varane’s side in the quarter-final win against England, could be joined in central defense by Arsenal’s William Saliba, who has only been used as a substitute in France’s defeat by Tunisia in the last group game.

But Deschamps will not only worry about his defensive situation. France is trying to contain the virus but there are fears more players could get sick. That would pose a major problem for Deschamps and a squad that has ditched N’Golo Kanté, Christopher Nkunku, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema through injury ahead of the tournament. Lucas Hernandez is definitely not fit. Suggestions that Benzema, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, could fly to Qatar and play as he was never replaced in the squad remain unconfirmed.

Calling Benzema would be a drastic move for Deschamps. France managed without the Real Madrid striker, with Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann all brilliant in attack. For now, their focus is on making sure everyone is healthy in time for the finals.

Dembele

“We are not afraid of this virus,” said Ousmane Dembélé. “Dayot and Adrien had a headache, a bit of a stomach ache. I made them some ginger honey tea and then they felt better. I hope everyone is ready for the final.”

There were theories that the virus, which has caused flu symptoms, was picked up during the game in England. England midfielder Declan Rice missed a day of training last week due to illness.

However, there is no evidence to support this theory and another possible explanation is that France fell victim to something that plagued many visitors to Qatar during the World Cup. There have been many complaints that air conditioners in stadiums, hotels and media centers are the cause of sore throats and coughs.

Dembélé, who played with Messi at Barcelona, ​​said France are ready to crush the Argentina captain’s dream. “It’s a dream to play with Messi,” he said. “He’s very humble in the dressing room, he helps the younger players and taught me a lot. It’s difficult to play against him but we’ll do everything we can.

“We fight for our country, for all French people. We want the French to be proud of us. It would be great if Lionel won, but we also want to win.”

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