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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

‘Bad news ahead of the final’: Mystery illness afflicts France players at World Cup

Several France players have caught colds, the French Football Federation said, as the team prepares for the World Cup final against Argentina, with defenders Raphaël Varane and Ibrahima Konaté the latest to fall ill on Friday. FRANCE 24’s special correspondents report from Qatar on this mystery illness. 

Varane, Konaté and striker Kingsley Coman were all sidelined as Les Bleus were preparing to take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Sunday’s final.

The trio of absentees sparked further fears of a mystery virus in the French camp after two players – midfielder Adrien Rabiot and defender Dayot Upamecano – were ruled out of the semi-final win over Morocco.

Rabiot and Upamecano both returned to training on Friday. Manager Didier Deschamps refused to panic after Wednesday’s win and said they were being careful to ensure the illness did not spread. 

“These are clearly not ideal circumstances, with so little time ahead of that big final against Argentina on Sunday,” FRANCE 24’s Selina Sykes reported from Doha. “If there is a bit of a reassuring element to this so-called virus that is spreading within the French camp, it is that it only seems to last a few days.” 

But it’s not just some of the French players who are feeling unwell, FRANCE 24 sport journalist Romain Houeix said on the phone from Qatar. “A lot of the French journalists are in bad shape,” he said. “People have been coughing and feeling unwell for a week. We can’t say what it is; we’re working 15-hour days and we don’t have time to take tests”. 

“It’s my theory that those players have Covid,” Houeix continued. “In sport they tend to talk about sore throats when it’s possibly Covid and they haven’t been tested. Another theory is that it’s ‘camel flu’, a local virus.” 

As far as the footballing goes, Houeix concluded, “of course we’re worried, as France fans – it’s bad news ahead of the final”.

French players sought to play down the illnesses on Friday. France’s forward Randal Kolo Muani said the players who fell ill had been isolated. 

“Those who are sick stay in their room, they’re being taken care of by the doctors and we’ve been enforcing social distancing. We’re very strict about it,” he said. 

Winger Ousmane Dembélé said: “We’re not scared of that virus. Dayot and Adrien got a bit of a stomach ache, I made them a ginger and honey tea and then they felt better. I hope everyone will be ready for the final.” 

Should Konaté and Varane be out for the final, however, Deschamps would face a difficult selection decision, as he would be without two of his top three defenders. 

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP) 

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