herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Sakho: 'We will be filled with rage'

Mamadou Sakho. Picture: Charles Platiau/REUTERS
Mamadou Sakho. Picture: Charles Platiau/REUTERS

FRANCE defender Mamadou Sakho and his team-mates will be filled with "rage" when they take on Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Not because they have anything personal against the Germans, but because they are still feeling the anger and desperation after barely qualifying for the tournament in Brazil.

Sakho has been France's vice captain since the second leg of the World Cup play-offs against Ukraine. With the team trailing 2-0 after a dire performance in Kiev, Sakho scored in a 3-0 win, and his passionate performance sparked a remarkable turnaround.

Since then, France are unbeaten in eight games and has kept six clean sheets.

"Of course I still have the rage inside me from that game," the Liverpool defender said. "We all have a little bit of that rage inside of us."

France is vastly more inexperienced than Germany, who have reached at least the semi-finals of each major competition since the 2008 European Championships. By contrast, France is rebuilding and has not reached any semi-final since the 2006 World Cup, where they were beaten by Italy in the final. But several fresh talents have revamped the national team - who only have two regular starters older than 29.

"We're a very young team with new players," Sakho said. "We've instilled a new spirit into the team - off the pitch, first of all - and it reflects on the pitch."

At 24-years-old, Sakho is the oldest of France's new generation and has played 22 times for his country. He was rested against Nigeria after failing to shake of a left hamstring injury but is fit again to face Germany this evening at the Maracana Stadium.

Besides Sakho, Paul Pogba has established himself in midfield and Raphael Varane has done likewise in central defence. Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann has confidently replaced winger Franck Ribery, who was injured before the tournament.

The 33-year-old Evra and 31-year-old Bacary Sagna are the senior players. But unlike before, all the players mingle and there is no generational conflict within the squad.

"Everyone sits together at the dinner table, there's no difference," Sakho said. "After the meal last night eight of us stayed at the table to talk about football and about life in general. It was brilliant."

Some change from Euro 2012, when players formed cliques and went straight to their rooms after finishing their meals.

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