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Didier Deschamps and Raphaël Varane on France's Nations League test against Belgium

"You always go into a competition to win it," says the Manchester United defender ahead of Les Bleus' semi-final.

Raphaël Varane and Didier Deschamps have a pitch-side discussion
Raphaël Varane and Didier Deschamps have a pitch-side discussion Icon Sport via Getty Images

World champions France fell short of their high expectations when they failed to make it beyond the round of 16 at UEFA EURO 2020, and are determined to leave a more positive impression during the UEFA Nations League finals.

Up against neighbours Belgium in Thursday's semi-final in Turin, Les Bleus are confident they can compete with the side they eliminated in the semi-finals en route to winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Coach Didier Deschamps and defender Raphaël Varane give their assessments of the Red Devils.

Varane on the UEFA Nations League

Road to the Nations League finals: France
Road to the Nations League finals: France

You always go into a competition to win it. [At EURO 2020] we didn't achieve that goal but we have other challenges ahead of us, so we focus on that and the counters are reset each time, whether it's after a victory or a loss. We've already won [the World Cup]. We want to relive great emotions, so of course, we want to win.

Deschamps on Belgium

There is this rivalry, and it’s maybe a bit heightened after the semi-final [at the 2018 World Cup] in Russia, where Belgium played a very good game but we managed to win and reach the final. Obviously, they have a lot of technical ability, and with [Eden] Hazard, [Romelu] Lukaku, [Kevin] De Bruyne they have a front three that means they are capable of getting very good results.

We don’t fear them. But they have a solid shape and plenty of creative ability, their attacking play is very effective. They are very efficient. They manage to get good possession with a system that is more or less the same every time. It’s based on a back three, but it’s flexible to some extent. They can also defend with four or five at the back.

Varane on Belgium

Meet the Nations League final four: France
Meet the Nations League final four: France

There is a nice rivalry [between France and Belgium]. They're a very good team and a very good generation. We saw that at the World Cup that it was very difficult to beat them, so they are obviously a quality opponent. So there is a real challenge and it is a motivation for us.

I think we know [Belgium’s] qualities; we know their attacking potential in particular. We managed to counter them [in the World Cup semi-final] and we can build on that to try and prepare for this fixture as well as possible. We know that it will be a collective effort and that's the only way we can counter them.

Deschamps on Varane

Watch Varane's pre-match motivation
Watch Varane's pre-match motivation

I've had Raphaël [Varane] since the beginning, since 2012 when I became the coach of the national side. He was really young then. I had huge confidence in him and the potential he was already showing. He listened from the beginning, and nowadays he is one of the most important players in my team.

As a defender, he’s lovely to watch, but that doesn’t stop him from being effective. People used to say he wasn’t aggressive enough, not hard enough in challenges, but he doesn’t need that. He is good in challenges, he is very quick. He’s good with his head, going forward and in defence, and that makes him one of the best defenders in the world.

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