France defender Samuel Umtiti says his team’s defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final has made their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia final run a compensation for him.
The Barcelona star scored the only goal as Les Blues defeated Belgium 1-0 in St Petersburg on Tuesday night to reach Sunday’s final of the mundial, heading home Antoine Griezmann’s corner kick six minutes after the break.
The defender, named Man of the Match in the semifinal contest played down talks of being the team’s lucky charm for getting to a second successive final in as many major competitions with them.
“I’m not the lucky charm, we didn’t win the Euro finals so that’s why it’s close to my heart now to reach the level and hope to bring the World Cup to France,” said Umtiti.
Umtiti’s defensive partner, Raphael Varane scored France’s first goal in the last round against Uruguay, also from a set-piece delivery by Griezmann, Umtiti however had to beat a taller opposition in Marouane Fellaini in the air for Tuesday’s decisive goal.
“When it comes to the goal, I had advice from people including my coach (Deschamps) that when you’re not particularly tall, what you need is the will and determination to get the goal. He (Fellaini) is a tall player but I managed to get ahead of him,” the 24-year old said.
Taking of his manager Didier Deschamps, he captained the French side which won the tournament on home soil exactly twenty years ago. The former Monaco manager states what Tuesday’s win does for his team.
“It (the win) brings excellent memories of 1998 but at this time, the victory in the semi finals is the most important as we have given ourselves a privilege to win the cup,” said Deschamps.
“It was sad to lose the final (of the Euros) two years ago so it is good that we now have this privilege to bring happiness back to the people. We hope to come back on Sunday and bring back joy after the 2016 loss,” he added.
The French side are already drawing comparisons with the 1998 squad and they will have to wait until Wednesday night to find out who they face in Sunday’s final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from St Petersburg