French players have fresh memories of Denmark coach’s barbs

French players have fresh memories of Denmark coach's barbs
The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — French players have fresh memories of Denmark coach Age Hareide criticizing them before the World Cup.

A month ago, Hareide told a Danish newspaper the France team his players will face Tuesday was “nothing special,” lacked players who were true leaders, and suggested Paul Pogba was too focused on his hairstyles.

“My players can read, they can listen,” France coach Didier Deschamps said Monday. “They know, they recall very well what the coach said.”

Asked if the comments would spice up the game at Luzhniki Stadium, the France coach replied: “Salt, pepper, vinegar, whatever you wish.”

“It’s not something particularly pleasant,” said Deschamps, though adding the barbs are “not what’s going to over-motivate” his players.

France has already advanced and needs only a draw to confirm first place in Group C. Denmark would go into the round of 16 by earning one point, and even with a loss if Australia fails to beat Peru in a game played at the same time.

Speaking two hours after Deschamps, Hareide played down talk of his provocative words.

“You can take anything from an article you like,” the Denmark coach said through an interpreter, explaining it was taken out of context in a discussion about France’s 1998 World Cup-winning side.

“I was just comparing with the best version of France we have ever seen in ’98, that’s all,” Hareide said, praising Pogba. “What he delivers as a player, you can’t really compare with anything in Europe.”

Pogba could yet be rested from a lineup expected to show several changes as Deschamps, who captained the 1998 title winners, uses his squad depth after two straight wins.

“I have 23 players and if I pick them it’s because I think at some point they can play a role, including starting a match,” the coach said. “The aim is to be first in the group. Never could I see myself saying to my team we are going to play here for a draw.”

The Denmark coach sees risk in trying to protect a draw.

“If you put that into players’ heads there will be passiveness in the team and that’s not good,” Hareide said. He also wants to avoid chasing victory like his team in a free-flowing 1-1 draw with Australia.

“We must not leave as much open space as we did against Australia. We need to be wiser in the way we can play because France is a very good team.”

Denmark’s result won’t matter if already eliminated Peru finally turns its spirited attacking style into goals and prevents Australia winning.

Hareide said one of his staff will be in Sochi to relay information to the Danish dugout in Moscow.

“We will know how it is going on an ongoing basis,” he revealed.” I’m not sure I’m going to tell the players, though.”

Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen said he isn’t interested to know the score in Sochi. Well, except in one scenario.

“If Peru is leading 5-0,” Eriksen said, “perhaps.”

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