France defender Mamadou Sakho and his teammates will be filled with “rage” when they take on Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Not because they have anything personal against Germany, but because they are still feeling the anger and desperation after barely qualifying for the tournament in Brazil.
Sakho has been France’s vice captain since the second leg of the World Cup playoffs against Ukraine. With the team trailing 2-0 after a dire performance in Kiev, Sakho scored in a 3-0 win, and his passionate performance sparked a remarkable turnaround.
Since then, France are unbeaten in eight games and have kept six clean sheets.
“Of course I still have the rage inside me from that game,” the Liverpool defender said on Wednesday. “We all have a little bit of that rage inside of us.”
France are far less experienced than Germany, who have reached at least the semi-finals of each major competition since the 2008 European Championship. By contrast, France is rebuilding and have not reached any semi-final since the 2006 World Cup.
However, several fresh talents have revamped the national team — who only have two regular starters older than 29.
“We’re a very young team with new players,” Sakho said. “We’ve instilled a new spirit into the team — off the pitch, first of all — and it reflects on the pitch.
“We know that Germany is a big team, a big football nation,” Sakho added. “But we’re also very good and I believe in us.”
At 24 years old, Sakho is the oldest of France’s new generation and has played 22 times for his country. He was rested against Nigeria after failing to shake of a left hamstring injury, but is fit again to face Germany today at Maracana Stadium.
Besides Sakho, Paul Pogba has established himself in midfield and Raphael Varane has done likewise in central defense. Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann has confidently replaced winger Franck Ribery, who was injured before the tournament.
The 33-year-old Evra and 31-year-old Bacary Sagna are the senior players, but unlike before, they all mingle and there is no generational conflict within the squad.
“Everyone sits together at the dinner table, there’s no difference,” Sakho said. “After the meal last night, eight of us stayed at the table to talk about football and about life in general. It was brilliant.”
Meanwhile, with the exception of backup defender Shkodran Mustafi, all of Germany’s players have been cleared to play in the quarter-final in Rio de Janeiro.
Mustafi tore a hamstring muscle in the match against Algeria and has been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament. He will remain with the team.
Germany assistant coach Andreas Koepke said backup midfielder Christoph Kramer had a light fever on Wednesday, but was expected to be available. And central defender Mats Hummels has recovered from the flu, which forced him to miss the 2-1 extra-time victory over Algeria on Monday.
Bastian Schweinsteiger had cramps and had to be substituted late in that game, but Koepke says he has recovered.