Denmark coach Age Hareide may regret making dismissive remarks about France before the World Cup when they meet in Moscow on Tuesday, his opposite number Didier Deschamps has warned.
Last month, Hareide told a Danish newspaper that France are “nothing special” and lack leaders, and said Paul Pogba cares more about his hair than his football.
France are expected to make several changes for the game but Deschamps told the pre-match press conference that Denmark would be given no “helping hand” and his objective was clear: win the game and top the group.
Deschamps’ men have already qualified for the knockout stages after wins over Australia and Peru but Denmark, on four points, need a draw to guarantee a place in the last 16.
Asked if Hareide’s comments would “add salt to the contest”, Deschamps said: “Salt, pepper, vinegar, whatever you wish – anybody can say what they want but they have to take responsibility for their words.
“It wasn’t very nice, but my players know very well what the coach said – they can read, they can listen.”
On his line-up for the Group C decider at the Luzhniki Stadium, Deschamps admitted this game was his last chance to rest and rotate players but denied it would be a “risk”, as every player in the France squad is good enough to step in or he would not have picked them.
He also gave short shrift to the idea this could be Paul Pogba’s last World Cup, an idea that surfaced after the Manchester United midfielder made an off-the-cuff comment about the scrutiny he is under in France and elsewhere.
Deschamps pointed out his playmaker is only 25, “so it’s highly probable he will play in another World Cup”, and said Pogba was “good in his head, happy and very motivated”.
Also speaking to reporters on Monday was Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane, who looks set to captain France against Denmark.
Asked if there was any possibility the team would try to engineer an easier last-16 game by not winning the group, Varane said: “No, we don’t want to start doing calculations and tie knots in our heads.”
That is something Denmark’s players are keen to avoid, too, as Premier League stars Christian Eriksen and Kasper Schmeichel explained when they spoke to reporters.
Eriksen said he would not want to know the score between Australia and Peru unless Peru are winning 5-0, as the South Americans cannot catch the Danes, while Schmeichel said the team are just happy to be going into the last group game still “in charge of our destiny”.
Hareide, however, admitted he would be following the score in the other game but said he might not tell the players.
He also claimed his negative assessment of this French vintage had been taken out of context, as he was only comparing the team with the 1998 World Cup winners, “the best version of the French team we’ve seen”.
In fact, the Norwegian, who had stints as a player with Manchester City and Norwich, did his best to row back from those comments by praising Deschamps’ “excellent players” and describing Pogba as a player without equal in Europe.
Hareide’s reference to the 1998 team was interesting as Varane had earlier been asked if he and his teammates are fed up with always being compared to that side.
“No, not all. We won the World Cup!” he said.
“It’s difficult to compare the generations but we can get inspiration from what they did, and if we do get upset about it we’ll just have to win one ourselves.”