Lloris set a new record for France, but the World Cup is all that matters
DOHA, Qatar – On Wednesday, as he lines up for the national anthem before the second semi-final against Morocco, Hugo Lloris will find his wife and children in the stands as usual. He would wave silently before refocusing on one of the most important plays of his career.
At 35 years old – he turned 36 a week after the final – it is likely the last World Cup for the veteran goalkeeper, although his run will stop on a Wednesday or Sunday, and with heartbreak or victory. But Qatar 2022 will forever be in his heart and in the history books. After all, in Doha, against England last weekend, Lloris became the most capped player in French men’s football history with 143 appearances, beating the record set by defender Lilian Thuram.
More than that, a win against England means there will be a 144th to follow, and that win will depend heavily on the form of the French keeper.
Prior to the match, Lloris did not like the harsh criticism from the British media, most of whom stated that he was his country’s weakest link. “He is really touched by it. He has been playing in England for 10 years and he thinks they know who he is,” explained a source close to the French team. “So that gave him more anger, desire and extra motivation to have the great game he did. He wanted to prove them wrong, and he did.”
To be fair, the entire French squad rallied behind their captain after beating England; they also didn’t appreciate the analysis and believed Lloris would be beyond reproach.
Beyond the gravity of the World Cup semi-finals, earning 143 caps with the national team is an extraordinary achievement. Lloris made his debut in November 2008 under Raymond Domenech, then played for Laurent Blanc and finally Didier Deschamps. That may not seem like much to many managers, but all three presided over very different eras, from the most messy (Domenech, and the 2010 World Cup) to the greatest success (won the 2018 World Cup, won the UEFA Nations League in 2020-21) of the Deschamps era.
From his debut to his appearances record, the Tottenham number 1 has grown and adapted through the ups and downs of the national team. He’s learned a lot from the failures and triumphs of the past 14 years, but has kept his cool throughout. Calmness is his main quality and he will try to infect his squad again on Wednesday.
“We have to keep the same calm approach. There are no secrets: this is what we are going to bring. We are getting closer to something great. The more we go forward, the more focused both me and us will be,” Lloris explained Tuesday morning.
Steve McManaman praised England’s performance despite losing 2-1 to France at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Watching the team’s preparations, Lloris looked calmer than usual. At times he seems impenetrable, perhaps because this is likely his last World Cup; he would not let the pressure get to him. He was calm and composed at all times, radiating calm from between the sticks, but he also knew when to speak tough to his team-mates. Prior to the crucial encounter with England, it was Lloris who was the loudest speaker in the dressing room, warning everyone not to take anything for granted, stressing that this game will be won in the finest detail, and that his team must focus on making sure they win the game. one chance that came their way.
For the most part, Lloris has kept quiet and never spoke, but being vocal before the quarter-finals suggests he is comfortable saying what he has to say when he feels the time is right. He never missed a trick. He is a master of emotional intelligence, which explains why he is such a respected captain for France and Tottenham.
That intuition has been an underrated element of France’s progress at this World Cup. With all their injuries before and during the early stages of the tournament — Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Presnel Kimpembe, Christopher Nkunku, Lucas Hernandez and Karim Benzema — and all the question marks over this team’s best line-up and skepticism over whether France can be the first team to defend the World Cup title since Brazil in 1962, Lloris was never in doubt. More than that, he brought this group together. He tends to sit next to Raphael Varane at the dinner table, towards the end, and from there he can see and hear everything. Even if he is a very good poker player against the likes of Varane and Antoine Griezmann, you will never hear him brag or talk about winning.
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Perhaps most refreshing for Lloris at this World Cup was the fact he knew his France career was nearing its end, which may have helped him enjoy it more. Every moment spent with the team, every win, every save, every press conference, every minute spent with relatives or friends, all the smiles, hugs and dreams have helped keep things light. Meanwhile, Lloris is two games away from picking up an incredible World Cup double that has never been done by any captain (Italy had a different captaincy in 1934 and 1938 and the same for Brazil in 1958 and 1962).
Again on Wednesday, his family will be there to watch over him. Sadly not his mother, who died of breast cancer when Hugo was just 21 years old, in April 2008, just months before he made his France debut. From above, he had guided her through her adulthood and she would watch over him one more time.