France left-back Lucas Hernandez has said that Belgium assistant manager Thierry Henry will still be happy if Les Bleus beat Roberto Martinez’s men to reach the World Cup final next week.
Speaking in a news conference after the 2-0 quarterfinal win over Uruguay to book their place in the last four, Hernandez also acknowledged Henry’s legendary status.
“Every French person knows very well that Thierry was a great player,” Hernandez said of Henry, who won the World Cup and European Championship. “He was an iconic footballer.
“I hope that Thierry will not beat us. If we win, I think that he will still be happy. After all, first and foremost, he is French.”
Hernandez, 22, also said that he and his France teammates believe that they have the quality to win the tournament, even if they are not talking their chances up publicly and vowed to fight like dogs to beat the Belgians.
“We are not saying it, but we all know that we can be champions,” the Atletico Madrid man said. “We are all very good players and we are ambitious.
“When you play in a World Cup, you want to win it — that is normal. We know that it is possible and that we are closer than ever before.
“There are just two matches left, now we must get past Belgium. We will give everything to reach the final — you will see 11 dogs on the pitch, plus the three substitutes.”
Asked about coming up against Eden Hazard, Hernandez showed no fear and pointed out that France have already sent Lionel Messi’s Argentina home.
“We have already eliminated the best player in the world [Messi] when we knocked Argentina out in the last 16 — he barely touched the ball,” Hernandez said. “What [in response to widespread laughter]? It is the truth. We will have to make sure that Hazard sees as little of the ball as possible.”
Raphael Varane, who opened the scoring against Uruguay with a header, said that Didier Deschamps’ cosmopolitan mix of players has created a strong team chemistry based on a variety of qualities.
“In any squad, each personality is different,” the Real Madrid defender said. “For example, at Real Madrid, [Sergio] Ramos is more impulsive. Here, [Paul] Pogba is the fire, and I am more like water. Everyone brings something to the group by not trying to behave like somebody else.
“This has been a long-standing mission, so we know each other well. We work well together, we play all over Europe, and everybody has different experiences from club level — different training session styles, different competitions etc…
“France, Italy, and England, the domestic competitions do not play in the same style. This is a source of strength, as is having a common goal.”
French captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made a superb save to deny Martin Caceres at 1-0 in Nizhny Novgorod and Varane declared that while journalists were questioning his performances, his teammates were always behind him.
“It was an incredible save from big Hugo,” Varane said. “When I saw the ball fly by, I thought it was going to hit the bottom corner. It is great to have a goalkeeper like him — we are calmer with somebody of his ability. We must thank him and give him a hug. We never doubted him, we know his value — he has more than 100 caps and he remains the same guy. Hugo knows what he has to do.”