Hugo Lloris, captain of his country for more than a decade, will create French national team history on Saturday when he leads World In their quarter-final clash with cup holders England, he was tasked with taking out his friend and club colleague Harry Kane.
Lloris and England captain Kane have been teammates at Tottenham since 2013, but by then the goalkeeper was already well established as France captain, having been named for the first time in November 2010 in a friendly against England. The armband was given by Laurent Blanc.
It came shortly after France’s disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa, and would see Lloris win a French record 143rd cap 12 years later against England at the Al Bayt Stadium, overtaking previous record holder Lillian Thuram.
“To achieve this in a career and stay at the highest level for 10 to 12 years while rarely getting injured shows how consistent he is,” France assistant coach Guy Stephen said this week.
Lloris turns 36 this month and has changed a lot since first becoming captain at international level while playing club football for Lyon.
He has since been on the losing side of a European Championship final before winning the World Cup in Russia four years ago.
“I’ve evolved naturally. I think I’m very different now from the guy I was when I was 23, when I was first given the armband,” he told AFP shortly before his arrival in Qatar.
His presence is now reassuring for coach Didier Deschamps, especially as most of the defense in front of him has changed since 2018, partly due to injuries – Raphael Varane is the only member of the starting line-up in Russia to start expected against England.
Varane has hailed Lloris as a calming influence, even though statistics show he is no longer as reliable as he once was.
Analysis by Opta showed that Lloris saved only 40 percent of the shots he faced this World Cup, down from 67 percent in 2018.
‘leader of men’
But his importance to the founding of France goes beyond these figures.
Deschamps will need his experience even more after the return of several stars, including the midfield duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, from injury ahead of the tournament.
Thierry Malaspina, his former youth coach at first club Nice, described Lloris as “thoughtful” but also “a real leader of men” when he spoke to AFP ahead of last year’s European Championship.
If making oneself heard is seen as an important quality for a captain, Lloris himself insists that being a leader is much more than that.
“Words are one thing but the most important thing is to put in the effort on the pitch,” said the Cote d’Azur native, who started playing tennis before turning to football.
“These days, a lot of importance is given to what can happen in the dressing room, but to be honest, sometimes we don’t need to speak,” he said.
Just ahead of the tournament, Lloris made it clear that he would not wear the multicolored anti-discrimination armband, before other captains were told that they would face disciplinary action if they participated in the initiative.
Under contract at Tottenham until 2024, Lloris knows his seventh major international tournament could be his last, especially as AC Milan star Mike Megnon – missing Qatar through injury – is patiently waiting to step up .
This could be my last World Cup because the next one is in four years. I just want to focus on this event and enjoy it to the maximum,” said Lloris.
Now he and France stand before a moment of reckoning against England.
Led by goals from Kylian Mbappe, they have impressed so far but this is easily the biggest test Les Bleus face as they attempt to become the first team in 60 years to retain the World Cup.
“We all want to make the most of every moment as a team. We don’t want to stop here,” he said.
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