ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - France coach Didier Deschamps was relieved to come through his side’s 2-0 quarter-final win over Uruguay without losing any of his players to an unnecessary suspension, he said after Friday’s match in Nizhny Novgorod.
After Antoine Griezmann scored France’s second goal, Kylian Mbappe was involved in an incident with Uruguay’s Christian Rodriguez that ended with the France attacker on the ground and players from both sides getting involved in a melee.
The situation threatened to boil over, and Deschamps took midfielder Paul Pogba aside for a quiet word as both Mbappe and Rodriguez were shown yellow cards.
“Regarding Paul, well things got a bit hot, and bearing in mind that he did have a yellow card, I didn’t want him to lose his temper and to get a booking for nothing much,” Deschamps told reporters after the match.
“That’s what I told all the players. If we qualify and they get yellow cards... not even for fouls but because of their gestures, because of their attitude, because of certain words that were said, that’s completely unnecessary.
“You can talk to the referee but you can’t be provocative and you can’t fall for the provocation of your rivals. I definitely didn’t want him to get another booking.”
Pogba was one of several French players already on a yellow and therefore at risk of a one-match suspension if he picked up another, and Deschamps praised the attitude of his youthful side.
“We have margin for improvement,” he added. “But youth is not only a weak point. You saw that in the second half. There were certain sparks that we managed to control.
“I had six players on a booking, and now I have everybody available for the next match, and that is great.”
France’s first goal came from a set piece, with Raphael Varane heading in Griezmann’s free kick, and Deschamps said his team had practiced ways to unlock the Uruguayan defence, which until that point had conceded only one goal at the World Cup.
“Griezmann was very good on that set piece, and Rafael reacted very well,” the coach said. “These are things we work on.
“This week I focused a bit more on their defence with respect to the Uruguayan positional play, because they are very good when it comes to playing in the central part of the field with their three best players in the air.
“It was important to gain a good position with respect to these players. We had to work on our set pieces, and we hadn’t scored like that yet, even though we do have good specialists in that regard.”
Deschamps said his team had controlled the game better and were deserved winners against tough opponents.
“We played against a beautiful Uruguayan side, but we were better than they were today. We had far more mastery than they had, especially in the second half,” he added.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in St Petersburg; Editing by Hugh Lawson