MOSCOW (Reuters) - It wasn’t any kind of retirement present, coach Didier Deschamps insisted, but giving veteran reserve goalkeeper Steve Mandanda a first World Cup finals game in France’s last group match on Tuesday was “logical”.
After Mandanda had kept a clean sheet in a dreary scoreless draw with Denmark that saw France top Group C, Deschamps said first choice keeper Hugo Lloris was willing to step aside for a game with little at stake. Lloris has kept Mandanda on the bench pretty consistently for the past eight years.
“Steve Mandanda is a very, very good goalkeeper, a player who is calm and who has been around a lot,” Deschamps told reporters of the man who has kept goal for Olympique de Marseille for a decade barring a brief London sojourn with Crystal Palace.
“Without wishing to offend him, it may be hard for him to do another World Cup seeing that he is 33,” the coach added.
“So this is not about thanking him. It’s not a gift. But it seemed to me logical to offer him this chance to play a match at the World Cup and he acquitted himself very well on the pitch.”
Congolese-born Mandanda was winning his 28th cap since 2008, but for most of that time he has been eclipsed by Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur, who won his 100th cap last week and should be back between the sticks for France’s next game on Saturday.
Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr, editing by Pritha Sarkar