France were disappointed they could not successfully defend their World Cup crown after losing to Argentina on penalties in Sunday’s final, but leave Qatar with heads high having fought until the end, players Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris said.

France fought back twice through Kylian Mbappe, who erased Argentina’s 2-0 lead in 97 seconds in normal time before scoring a third in extra time to level it at 3-3.

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But the South Americans won 4-2 on penalties.

“We are very disappointed of course, we gave everything. We had to face a lot of obstacles during the competition, we gave up nothing,” Varane said.

“For an hour we were not in the game. We could have won too. I’m very proud of this group and of being French. We keep our heads high. We came back in this game when it was complicated.

“We pushed and we believed until the end. We almost turned the game around, which was not going well… There was mental strength in this group, a lot of heart. That allowed us to come back in this game. We’re disappointed but also proud.”

Argentina were the better team in the first half and stormed into a 2-0 halftime lead before Mbappe, who won the Golden Boot for most goals in the tournament, brought them level with goals in the 80th and 81st minute of the contest, which France skipper Lloris described as a “boxing match.”

“The Argentines got off to a great start, being aggressive, using all facets of the game. We were a bit reactionary all night,” Lloris said.

France had also come into the final after several players missed training sessions due to illness over the past week, but Lloris refused to use that as an excuse.

“We’re not going to make excuses, we gave everything,” he added. “You have to congratulate the guys because we didn’t give up until the end.”

Manager Didier Deschamps said his team was left heartbroken after coming so close to pulling off a remarkable comeback to repeat as World Cup champions.

“We came back from the brink, that’s what gives us so many regrets,” Deschamps, who guided France to the title in 2018, told a news conference.

“We’ve got a World Cup ball in the last minute but it was not meant to be. If we’re 2-0 down and then we lose 3-0, it’s different. You say ‘bravo’ to Argentina and that’s it.

“I still congratulate them, they played a great game, with a bit of gamesmanship, but we were expecting that and it does not take any merit from their victory.”

Deschamps’s contract expires at the end of the year but having reached the goal of making it to the last four, he must decide whether to extend it.

“I’m having a meeting with my president at the beginning of the year. Then, you’ll know,” said Deschamps, who has been in charge since 2012, reaching the Euro 2016 final, winning the 2018 World Cup, last year’s Nations League and making it to the World Cup final again.

The coin could have flipped the other way, especially thanks to Mbappe’s magnificent performance as he became the second player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

“He wanted to make his mark on this World Cup. He did, but not as much as he wanted,” Deschamps said.



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France leave World Cup with heads held high