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2022 FIFA World Cup

Robert Pires wishes for repeat of 1998 World Cup final; hopes France lifts its third title

Published at :December 8, 2022 at 3:58 AM
Modified at :December 8, 2022 at 4:54 AM
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The former midfielder was part of the French team that beat Brazil to lift their maiden WC title.

In a Q&A with Robert Pires, he indicated that he wants a rematch of the 1988 World Cup between France and Brazil. And he wants his team to beat the Selecao in the final. The Arsenal great, who won the World Cup with France in 1998, was part of the invincible Arsenal team that won the Premier League without losing a game in 2003-04.

Robert Pires is a part of the Viacom18 sports expert panel for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The matches are live on Sports18 and JioCinema.

Pires believes France can win the World Cup again because they are head and shoulders above every other squad. The questions below were posed by some aspiring journalists, and his responses follow.

Q - Despite injuries, France are the favourites to defend their title. Do you believe France will win the second World Cup in a row?

Robert Pires – Yes, losing guys like Karim Benzema was disappointing, but we have many excellent players who performed well. Olivier Giroud has accepted the job extremely well, and we now face England in the quarter-finals. Yeah, I hope we win the World Cup. This is (Didier) Deschamps and the players' goal. We face England, but there are many nations, so winning the World Cup will be challenging, but we will try.

Q - Thoughts on Kylian Mbappe

Robert Pires – Yes, he was impressive against Poland, and we all know what he brings to the table. He is really fast, and only a few right-backs can stop him. So he is very crucial for France and the head coach. He is not the same player he was four years ago. Mbappe is much more experienced and a lot superior presently.

"He is always on your side and he is determined, stubborn to be number one, to be successful. To be number one you have to always try and he is always confident. So he is the best player in the making in my opinion.

Q – Do you think his determination to be the best stems from playing alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi?

Robert Pires – I say stubborn because of his play, not because of his mind since he has to work and play alongside two greats. So he's obstinate on the field, but I'm not sure what occurs in the locker room. Playing with Neymar and Messi at PSG is wonderful, the trio is lethal.

Q – Defending champions tend to struggle in their next World Cup. But what makes this France team so special?

Robert Pires – The distinction I'm not sure about since we have the same squad, same talent, and same luck as in 2018. But the key is that they have more expertise and have played more games. Deschamps has constructed a good team, and we have many other nations. But now we are mentally stronger and more focused on the tournament.

 Q – Many have stated that France lacks creativity in midfield, which could be a liability when they face England in the quarter-finals. Your thoughts?

Robert Pires – It's always tough to play against England; it's like a war and a rugby match. It's a difficult conflict, but I believe England and France are quite similar in that they both play 4-3-3 and have amazing abilities and qualities, such as (Bukayo) Saka and (Phil) Foden. And I'd like to see a face-to-face between Kyle Walker and Mbappe; both are swift, so it'll be exciting.

Q – Olivier Giroud shattered the goalscoring record and is now France's all-time leading scorer. Your thoughts on him?

Robert Pires – Giroud, my friend, is extremely fantastic and a terrific player. He scored a goal against Poland which is unbelievable. I also spoke to him this morning, and he was thrilled. To score 52 goals is an amazing feat, he is now number one. He possesses excellent qualities and works well in groups.

Q – What did you tell Giroud when he stated 52 goals is too far away?

Robert Pires – Just try to reach for the sky because he is a striker and he has to score every time. In 2018 he didn't score and was frustrated, and today he has three goals and has to win the trophy. So there is a variation and he is a very great player for France. I know in Milan he is wonderful as well, and they have Zlatan, so you know how it feels.

Q – Which Asian team has impressed you the most among Japan, South Korea, and Australia?

Robert Pires – I am not surprised about them, especially Japan, since they have excellent quality and are physically sharp. They all play for a team. As well as South Korea, who made the round of 16 by no accident. But Japan I am not shocked about them because they are very strong and they always give their best.

Q – What other Asian countries can learn from this performance?

Robert Pires – Japan are an excellent example. They have a competing league; (Andres) Iniesta plays in the Japanese league. Therefore many Asian countries could learn from them about how they are so good at this.

Q – You have been in India and played in the ISL for FC Goa. What are your thoughts on Indian football?

Robert Pires – I follow (FC) Goa, and Mumbai (City FC) are on top. They also beat Goa. I've spent a lot of time in Goa and India in general. It's a wonderful nation, with cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Kerala. I've played at a high level, so when we played in Kerala, the stadium was packed, and it felt like I was playing in the Premier League, but we lost.

Q – What is it like to win the World Cup?

Robert Pires – It's a fantastic feeling. I grew up watching (Diego) Maradona and these players. You see them and you think, yeah, maybe I'll fill his shoes one day. The dream became a reality in 1998 when we played in France and outscored Brazil 3-0. Now we have won two World Cups and in 10 days I hope we will come out on top and win the third World Cup, which is a purpose for Deschamps.

Q – This World Cup has seen several upsets, Germany were eliminated for a second time. Did it surprise you?

Robert Pires – The World Cup is quite unpredictable. We have methods in place to keep teams with low blocks waiting. The World Cup is full of surprises, and we have many nations to thank for that. This has been a fantastic World Cup, with amazing matchups and a thrilling encounter between Spain and Germany. Japan defeated Germany and Spain. And Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina, proving that anything is possible in football.

Q – Do you believe Arsenal will win the Premier League this season?

Robert Pires – Fingers crossed, we have a good opportunity and have opened the season well, and have been stable this time. Coach (Mikel) Arteta has been tenacious in his work. We have good quality, but we also have some bad news, as we have lost Gabriel Jesus, who scored goals. So two months without him will be complicated, but we can still be a title threat.

Q – Who do you think is most likely to win the World Cup?

Robert Pires – I want to see the same final as in 1998, Brazil vs. France. I hope France wins (the title) for the third time and a second time in a row.