World Cup winner Raphael Varane retires from France team
PARIS (AP) — France defender Raphaël Varane announced his retirement from the national team on Thursday, the second major player to leave Les Bleus following the World Cup final defeat to Argentina.
The 29-year-old Varane made his debut 10 years ago and played 93 times. He was arguably the tournament’s standout defender when France won the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But he fell to the ground exhausted deep into extra time against Argentina in Qatar last December. France lost the final on penalty kicks after a 3-3 draw.
“Representing our magnificent country for a decade has been one of the greatest honors in my life. Every time I wore the blue jersey I felt an immense pride,” Varane wrote on his Instagram page. “The duty of giving everything, of playing with my heart and of winning every time I stepped onto the field. I’ve been thinking about this for a few months and I’ve decided it’s the right time for me to take my international retirement.”
Varane, who plays in the English Premier League for Manchester United, was five years old when France won its first World Cup in 1998.
The sight of Zinedine Zidane scoring twice against Brazil, and France celebrating a 3-0 win, sparked his desire for the game.
“As a child I remember watching France ’98, this team, these players who filled me with indescribable emotions. It was a dream to emulate our heroes and, 20 years later, I experienced one of the greatest moments of my life,” Varane added. “I will never forget this.”
Last month, goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris quit the national team after a record 145 appearances.
France coach Didier Deschamps must rebuild the team without two of his most consistent players heading toward next year’s European Championship.
Deschamps said Varane warned him this week.
“He’s an intelligent lad, who knows how to take the time to think, to weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision,” Deschamps said. “Now that our paths are going separate ways, I would like to pay tribute to his honesty and his unrelenting commitment to the blue jersey. Raphaël played a central part on and off the field in the past decade.”
Along with Lloris and forward Antoine Griezmann, he was the player the coach always relied on.
Deschamps, a former midfielder who captained France when it won the 1998 World Cup, said he reluctantly accepted Varane’s decision.
“I experienced a little bit of a similar situation to his,” Deschamps said. “I understand his point of view and respect his decision, even though it might seem a bit of a pity given all that he’s achieved with the national team.”
An elegant ball-playing defender, Varane stood out with his slick passing and his excellent positional play. His great anticipation and turn of speed allowed him to make crucial interceptions look easy.
A strong man-marker despite his slight build, Varane was also good in the air. One of his five goals for Les Bleus was a firm header in the quarterfinal win against Uruguay at the 2018 World Cup.
Deschamps praised Varane as one of the finest players he’s coached.
“Obviously, I can’t turn this page without feeling a certain emotion, given the connection we’ve built since 2012. Along with Lloris, he was in every single one of my (squad) lists, barring injury,” Deschamps said. “I remember how authoritative he was during our World Cup playoff against Ukraine in 2013. His performance was of the highest standard. One of many.”
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