France captain hails best moment of his career after title win over Croatia in Moscow on Sunday
Hugo Lloris on World Cup win: 'We didn’t know we would have another chance' after Euro 2016 final
Hugo Lloris came through the mixed zone a little later than his teammates, the World Cup already carried off in the arms of Raphael Varane, the France captain left to sum up his emotions and those of his victorious team.
To put into words what it meant to lift football’s premier prize at the end of an absorbing final against Croatia, the culmination of an absorbing four weeks of football.
He was only the second Frenchman to have had the honour as captain, following on from Didier Deschamps – his manager now – in 1998, achieving what even beaten finalist Zinedine Zidane could not, in 2006.
Lloris, though, struggled to recall what had just gone on at a sodden Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Considering the magnitude of the moment? Little wonder.
“I didn’t think too much because, in front of me, I knew there was my grandmother, my father, my brother, my sister, my wife and two kids,” he said, smile wide. “It means a lot for me and is a great emotional moment.
“There is plenty of work behind this. I want to say thank you to all my teammates for giving me the privilege to lift this trophy. It’s a great moment for us and French football.”
It felt even better given France’s most recent appearance at a major tournament. In the European Championship two years ago, in front of their fans and on their own patch, Deschamps’ side were beaten in the showpiece 1-0 by Portugal in extra time.
Lloris played that night at the Stade de France, one of nine members of the World Cup squad this past month to carry the scars from that night in Saint-Denis. It made victory on Sunday all the more sweet.
“We didn’t know after the final of the Euros that we would have another chance in our careers,” he said. “We have made it with a lot of effort - the key was mental and team spirit because from the beginning even if we have a lot of great players, we were all ready to work for the team.”
The collective effort throughout the World Cup ensured Lloris was not left to regret an embarrassing individual mistake right at its death. Against Croatia, with the score at 4-1 and 21 minutes remaining, he attempted to take Samuel Umtiti’s back-pass beyond Mario Mandzukic and watched in horror as the ball ricocheted back and into his goal. Thankfully for Lloris, France held on to triumph 4-2.
“The most important thing is the win and that I made the save [from Ante Rebic] at 1-1,” he said. “I would have preferred to not concede the second goal, but we still won.
2018 World Cup team of the tournament: France players dominate
Interactive: How the World Cup's key players rated
Gary Meenaghan: Croatia can stand tall after coming up short in World Cup final
In pictures: France v Croatia in World Cup final
“We worked hard a lot together to reach this level and now we can enjoy; we have left our stamp on French football. One mistake in a World Cup, sure it’s in the final, but the score was already done, so I’m very proud.”
And anyway, by that time, France’s fourth had killed the game. Kylian Mbappe got it, offering another example of his superstar potential, at 19 years old becoming the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, after Pele in 1958. With four goals in all in Russia, Mbappe was later voted the tournament’s best young player. Few would argue.
“He has a great potential to become one of the best players in the world,” Lloris said. “He has achieved a lot already. It’s difficult to get success in football - you have to be in the right team at the right moment. We have all our individual histories behind this success.”
And now, Lloris had a World Cup winner’s medal dangling from his neck.
“It’s the best moment of my career,” he said, smile still wide. “And now I need to enjoy it.”