'Matured' Dembele ready to impress after France get World Cup defence off to a flyer

By Sports Desk November 23, 2022 626

Ousmane Dembele says he has "matured" as a person and a player since France last the World Cup in 2018, following a victorious start to their title defence against Australia.

The Barcelona winger started as Didier Deschamps' side bounced back from an early Craig Goodwin finish to win 4-1 in Al Wakrah, thanks to an Olivier Giroud double and goals from Adrien Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe.

Having been an unused substitute four years ago as Les Bleus beat Croatia in  the final in Russia, Dembele is looking to play his part in what he hopes to be a successive World Cup triumph.

With his Blaugrana form having turned a corner after a prolonged saga over his future at the club, he feels he is in a stronger place to contribute now for the national team at Qatar 2022.

"There has been three difficult seasons with Barcelona," he stated. "When you look at the first two games [I played in] 2018 and this year there is a lot of difference.

"I have matured. I didn't have a healthy lifestyle as you can imagine, [though] it wasn't a party! But I'm a little older now, [at] 25."

France's recovery ensured they dodged an upset against Australia, but other heavyweight favourites have been less fortunate so far at the World Cup.

Argentina were stunned by lowly Saudi Arabia, while Germany, looking to recover from a chastening campaign in Russia, failed to stop a comeback from Japan.

Dembele says it leaves a warning that no match is easy at Qatar 2022, and that bigger sides write off theoretical underdogs at their peril.

"There are no small teams," he added. "Everyone knows how to play football, how to work on tactics. We saw that with Saudi Arabia.

"When you lower the intensity, you get trapped. But with our team, if we put all the ingredients together, we will not have to worry."

France are next in action when they play Denmark in Group D on November 26, before their final group stage match against Tunisia four days later.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 23 November 2022 11:24
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