It makes you wonder which was the happiest group, Wednesday, June 16, during the recovery session in an annex stadium of the Allianz Arena in Munich, after the victory against Germany. On the one hand, there were the substitutes engaging in a small but joyful game under the watchful eye of the coach and hoping, without seeming to, to attract the attention of the boss.
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And on the other, the eleven heroes of the day before, who ran slowly for ten minutes, then sweated on stationary bikes or weight machines to eliminate toxins from the muscles paralyzed by the physical battle against Germany. “We trot, otherwise it’s guaranteed stiffness”, launched from afar Antoine Griezmann, the French striker with a thousand defensive returns.
Grimace in the hands of masseurs
In the adjoining gymnasium, away from the gaze of journalists but not from the authorized camera of the FFF’s YouTube channel, the physical trainers were very caring for Benjamin Pavard, violently hit by a German player to the point that we have considered a risk of concussion. The defender must remain under medical supervision until the match on Saturday, June 19, which promises to be particularly trying: it is scheduled for 3 p.m., in Budapest, Hungary, under 35 to 36 ° C in the shade (the players, them , will evolve in full sun).
The camera also showed the forced smile, half grimace, half smirk, of Presnel Kimpembe engaged in the powerful hands of the physiotherapist martyring his thigh. A little later, in a press conference, vice-captain Raphaël Varane returned to the subject of recovery, an essential aspect in a long-distance competition and which began with “A sort of finale” (sic) before the letter against Germany.
“I hope we will hold on like this until the end, we had a great debauchery of physical and mental energy in this match”, explains the Real Madrid player, who puts the purely muscular aspect of the load into perspective. “We are used to playing every three days in a club, now we have four days is better”, he said. “We prepared well physically for a fortnight at Clairefontaine (the French national football center, Editor’s note). It was hard, but we are ready and it was seen on the field ”, Lucas Hernandez added Thursday, June 17.
The importance of mentally disconnecting
Still, what is at stake for these high level athletes who are very well prepared and supported throughout the season is undoubtedly more mental than physical. “We are far from our families, we feel the pressure of the country, but our job is to relax, to rest after a match and to disconnect in order to arrive as fresh as possible for the next one”, continues Raphaël Varane.
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During a pre-Euro briefing, the physical trainer of the France team, Cyril Moine, said nothing else: “The psychological aspect is important, it requires a lot of discussion with the players. If a player does not feel well, you have to listen, reassure him and find training that will allow him to regain mental freshness through more fun sessions than physical or tactical. “
Paul Pogba Chief Ambiance
This strategy is particularly suited to substitutes: the four or five who have a chance to have playing time, such as Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembélé, Corentin Tolisso or Thomas Lemar, like the men from the back of the bench, the most numerous in a group of 26, who should wear, except in the event of an unforeseen event, only a training bib during this Euro.
The preparers are very caring for those too, but two or three key players have also voluntarily taken on this role. In 2018, it was Adil Rami who played the nannies; this time the chief ambiancer, on the pitch and behind the scenes is Paul Pogba. “We never repeat it enough, but a competition cannot be won at eleven, it’s a whole group that wins or not”, Raphaël Varane insists. Perfect relay for Didier Deschamps, whose main job is to supervise those who play, but also to keep the flame of those who play little or nothing to the end.
The Benjamin Pavard puzzle
It is the first hitch in the machinery of the France team. UEFA opened an investigation after the release of a press release from Fifpro (International Federation of Professional Footballers Associations) surprised that the “concussion” protocol was not respected after the shock suffered by the French side, K.-O. seconds after being hit in the head by a German player.
The procedure is much less demanding than in rugby (the player returns to the locker room and must answer standard questions), but Benjamin Pavard should have been out of the field to check cold that he had all his faculties. The French Federation, through the voice of its press chief Raphaël Raymond, said that the doctors had estimated that the player was stunned but perfectly aware. What Raphaël Varane confirmed, very close to the action.