RIBEIRAO PRETO, Brazil (AP) — Despite France’s attractive performances at the World Cup, the president of the French Football Federation thinks it is “pretentious” to place the team among the tournament favorites.
France has caught the eye so far with some sparkling attacking play, scoring eight goals in two games and all but sealing its place in the next round after beating Ecuador 3-0 and Switzerland 5-2.
“Les Bleus are going to give everything, but to state that we’re good enough to be in first place is a bit pretentious,” Noel Le Graet said on Sunday. “You should not get carried away. We don’t know the real level of the team yet. You need to give us a bit more time to improve.”
France is likely to face either Nigeria or Iran in the knockout stage, but Le Graet cautions against thinking ahead to the quarterfinal stage just yet.
“France can’t be too arrogant and say we’re above this team or that. ... The team is very young and hasn’t totally proved itself yet,” he said. “Talking about Iran. Did you see their match against Argentina? It was even and Iran could have hoped for a draw, even a win at one stage. I’ve seen other games which were very, very close. No one can say what an easy team is.”
He considers Brazil and Germany, rather than rapidly-improving France, to be among the real favorites.
“A bit of humility (is required). You have to look at where we’ve come from. France is still trying to find itself a bit,” he said. “We don’t have the confidence of the Germans or the Brazilian team. We can’t compare ourselves to the big nations yet.”
The fervor in France has increased since Friday’s rout of Switzerland, with France pulverizing a team ranked sixth in the world with a rampant attacking display as good as any so far in Brazil.
“We’ve already given (people) a lot of hope,” Le Graet said. “But you can’t say we’ve beaten loads of teams. That’s false, we’re newcomers. No one was expecting us to have a plus-six goal difference here.”
But given the way France raced into a 5-0 lead, it is proving hard to quell the rising hopes of long-suffering French fans, despite the best efforts of Le Graet and coach Didier Deschamps.
“Five goals against the Swiss was like a dream and almost too good to be true,” Le Graet said. “There’s a lot of hope for this team but things are going quicker than I’d imagined. I think a bit too quickly and there’s a little bit of excess after two games.”
His relationship with Deschamps is much closer than with former coach Laurent Blanc at the European Championship two years ago, where tensions crept into the camp.
Things were even worse four years ago in South Africa, where the team shamed a nation by going on a training strike.
The team appears far more harmonious under the firm, yet fair, leadership of Deschamps.
“Everyone’s doing their job properly without bothering anyone else and no one is trying to steal the limelight,” Le Graet said. “You can’t play football properly if you’re unhappy. When you saw the joy against the Swiss it was obvious they are a happy group.”