France centre-back Raphael Varane said on Sunday he made a lot of “sacrifices” to be fit for the World Cup after injuring his thigh playing for Manchester United in October.
The 29-year-old left the pitch in tears after falling awkwardly in United’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea on October 22, believing his World Cup dream was over.
“It was a difficult moment. At first I thought I had a more serious injury that it really was,” Varane said a press conference in Doha.
“I thought it was over for the World Cup.”
As it turned out, his recovery time was significantly shorter than he thought and Didier Deschamps named him in his 26-man tournament squad.
Varane missed France’s opening 4-1 Group D win against Australia but then returned to the starting line-up for Friday’s 2-1 victory over Denmark that booked Les Bleus’ place in the last 16.
“A sportsman’s life has ups and downs, you have to pick yourself up and come back stronger,” he said.
“I went into fast-track recovery mode, I put in a lot of effort and made a lot of sacrifices to be ready in time.
“It was difficult but I’m making the most of every moment. I know exactly what it means to wear the France jersey. I was desperate to overcome (his difficulties).”
As a World Cup winner four years ago and a four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, before his move to Old Trafford, Varane is one of France’s most experienced players and a leader on the pitch.
He said that his role in the group involved “guiding, encouraging” others through his attitude and words.
“I try to pass on my calm and tranquility. I have experience of high-pressure situations. That can help and reassure.”
France were the first team to book their knock-stage place where their potential opponents are unknown but could as easily be one of the pre-tournament favourites Argentina as outsiders Saudi Arabia.
“We know we have to play big teams. There are no easy matches, even less so in the knock-outs,” said Varane.
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