France are highly motivated to prove themselves against Europe’s elite sides in the UEFA Nations League Final Four even though the young competition does not have the prestige of the major tournaments, France captain Hugo Lloris said on Wednesday.
The world champions take on top-ranked Belgium on Thursday in a repeat of the 2018 World Cup semi-final for the right to play in Sunday’s final against European champions Italy or Spain, who reached the Euro 2020 semis.
“These are the best European teams, the level is very high and the fact they have qualified shows they are all in their best form“, goalkeeper Lloris told a news conference ahead of the game at Juventus Stadium in Turin.
“It may not seem like a World Cup or a European Championship but a trophy is still at stake and the best sides in Europe are there. Belgium are a top team, we expect a real battle and will have to be focused“.
Belgium did not take losing to France well in that semi-final in St Petersburg, with Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard bemoaning Didier Deschamps’ side’s defensive tactics and the goalkeeper describing them as an “anti-football” team.
Deschamps played down the ill-feeling between the sides, insisting there was a “healthy rivalry” between the neighbours.
“A lot was said after that game, some of which was misinterpreted, but we have a lot of respect for them and (coach) Roberto Martinez. A lot of time has passed since then and another final is up for grabs now“, he said.
“Players really enjoy these games when there’s a lot at stake and there will be tomorrow. We did everything to reach this Final Four, we won in Portugal to earn our ticket here so we’ll do everything to get to the final“.
“Belgium are a quality side, it’s a prestigious game and everyone is expecting a real show“.