France coach Didier Deschamps refused to be drawn on his centre-back selection for the Euro 2016 quarter-final against Iceland amid speculation Samuel Umtiti will make a full international debut at Stade de France.
Adil Rami collected his second booking of the tournament against Republic of Ireland during the previous round and will miss out.
Umtiti, set to join Barcelona from Lyon after the tournament, is expected to win the nod over Eliaquim Mangala to partner Laurent Koscielny on Sunday, with the 22-year-old reported to have outperformed the Manchester City man during training.
But, when he was asked to provide a summary of Umtiti’s qualities at his pre-match news conference, Deschamps offered a sharp and mischievous reply.
“Do you want me to tell you Eliaquim Mangala’s attributes as well or are you not bothered?” he said. “What a question!”
“Samuel is with us. He is still a young player but he’s already got a lot of experience because he has played in the Champions League with Lyon.
“He was a U-20 world champion with France [in 2013]. If he is moving to the club where he is supposed to be going to, that is not by chance either,” he added, referring to his expected transfer from Ligue 1 to Camp Nou.
“He is very strong in the challenge, he is technically very gifted when it comes to playing the first pass out of defence.
“He has all the attribute required of a top-level defender.”
Captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was asked whether he would have a special approach to help settle Umtiti into arguably the biggest match of his career.
Like his boss, he refused to be drawn on specifics.
“It depends whether it is Samuel Umtiti or Eliaquim Mangala,” he said. “But you do need to have a personal approach that is suited to them, especially when you are a goalkeeper.
“You do like to have good rapport with your central defensive pairing. These are very small details but they do become important.
“I’ve been able to play with Samuel Umtiti at Lyon and Eliaquim Mangala in the French national side.
“We’ve been playing together in training since the start of the tournament and whoever plays we will give them the best chance of performing.”
Lloris added: “Regardless of who starts tomorrow we have complete faith in him.
“We’ve been working on this match since the start of the week, we’ve been preparing it as best we can and, regardless of which player is picked, he will be at 100 per cent and will be up to the task at hand.”
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