France centre-back Raphael Varane said on Sunday he had made many “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 going down awkwardly in United’s 1-1 draw with 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 than it really was,” said Varan at a press conference in Doha.
“I thought it was over for the World Cup.”
As it turned out, his recovery time was considerably shorter than he thought and Didier Deschamps named him in his 26-man squad for the tournament.
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 win over Denmark, which secured Les Bleus’ place in the last 16.
“The life of an athlete has ups and downs, you have to pick yourself up and come back stronger,” he said.
“I went into recovery mode, put in a lot of effort and made a lot of sacrifices to be ready in time.
It’s been hard, but I’m making the most of every moment. I know exactly what it means to wear the shirt of France. I was desperate to overcome (his difficulties).
A World Cup winner four years ago and a four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid before moving to Old Trafford, Varane is one of France’s most experienced players and a leader on the pitch.
He said his role in the group involves “guiding, encouraging” others through his attitude and words.
“I try to convey my calmness and serenity. I have experience of high pressure situations. It can help and reassure you.”
France were the first team to book their place in the qualification stage where their potential opponents are unknown but could easily be one of the pre-tournament favorites Argentina like outsiders Saudi Arabia.
“We know we have to play with big teams. “There are no easy matches, even less in knockouts,” said Varan.