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Raphael Varane, France won’t have Knysna embarrassment on their mind against Bafana

Classy France defender Raphael Varane. Picture: Reuters

Classy France defender Raphael Varane. Picture: Reuters

Published Mar 29, 2022


Lille, France - Raphael Varane was only 18-years old when he and his countrymen watched in disappointment as France left South Africa with tails between their legs following a poor showing that was marked by an embarrassing training ground episode at the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Their final match at that ill-fated tournament was a loss to the host nation whom they play in a friendly international at Lille's Pierre Mauroy Stadium late Tuesday night.

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Expectedly, the Manchester United star defender who will captain Les Bleus against Bafana Bafana was asked to reflect on that unsavoury memory for French football.

Just as he deftly uses timely tackling and smart anticipation to thwart opposition attacks, Varane handled the question with consummate ease.

"That's happened in the past and there have been a lot of changes since then. It was up to us and the federation to restructure the team and we have done that," he said, in clear reference to the fact that Les Bleus have since grown from strength to strength since that pathetic showing in South Africa where infighting and players being sent home characterised their campaign.

"So I choose to see the positive of what that experience in South Africa has brought to the team than look to what happened then."

The French national team has grown since then to the extent that they are the current World Cup champions having reigned victorious at Russia 2018.

Varane is now one of the squad's senior players and as captain he is edging ever so close to catching up to Lilian Thuram in the highest number of matches played in that leadership role.

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"Of course I am proud to be captain of Les Bleus. And I was fortunate to to be captain at just 21 years old.

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He is excitedly looking ahead to leading his country in his home region.

"I grew up not too far from here," he said at the pre-match media conference at the match venue "So this is very special for me to play here. A lot of my family will be at the stadium , so yes it is a match I am really looking forward to."

The French go into the clash with Bafana fresh from having beaten another African country in Cote d'Ivoire at the weekend.

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That come-from-behind 2-1 victory was marred by some of the players getting jeered and whistled at by the crowd and Varane was asked if he feared the same would happen against Bafana.

"We are not fearing anything from the crowd. We are just proud to be wearing the blue and we will take pleasure in doing well against South Africa."

And you can bet the 50 000 crowd that will pack the Pierre Mauroy Stadium will be willing Les Bleus on to a resounding victory that will lay the ghost of South Africa 2010 to rest.

Not that Varane and Co will have the embarrassment of Knysna on their mind when they trot on to the pitch.

The match is scheduled for a .9.15pm kick off on Tuesday.