Aurelien Tchouameni accepted that France had overcome a “very, very good” team in beating England 2-1 to reach the World Cup semi finals.
The Real Madrid midfielder opened the scoring for the reigning world champions, thundering a strike past Jordan Pickford into the bottom corner. England hit back through a Harry Kane penalty, before Olivier Giroud put the French back in front for a second time.
Kane was then given another chance to restore parity, but with four minutes remaining, he blasted his second spot-kick over the crossbar. France’s victory ensures their bid to become the first country since Brazil in 1962 to retain the World Cup, remains on course.
Having beaten a below-par Poland side in the last-16 and with the surprise package Morocco awaiting in the semis, the clash with England could prove to be their sternest test. And for large portions of the pulsating encounter at the Al Bayt stadium, England controlled proceedings, missing a number of clear-cut chances.
And Tchouameni was full of praise for the dejected England stars, admitting that they made France suffer and caused them a number of issues. “We need to continue like this, and keep measuring up to the competition. We feel little by little that there is a real group forming here… We suffered, but this is the World Cup,” he told beIN Sports.
“We played a very, very good English side, that caused us problems. Aside from that, we were able to hang tough, score towards the end and progress.”
He added: “Every time we come back from a match we are received in our hotel, there is a little celebration from the staff, it is cool, we hope for 2 more after this. Champions? We need to win the next game first, prepare well for this nice Morocco team, and then we can think about that.”
France boss Didier Deschamps offered a similarly flattering verdict of England in his own post-match media commitments: "This is fabulous, this was a great match, we came up against a truly fantastic English side, but we responded once more.
“It is magnificent, we have to savour it. We are in the semi-finals, that's not nothing. We have the mentality & the spirit."
Giroud was also complimentary of Gareth Southgate’s side and admitted they were all too aware of the talent within their ranks. He went on to compare the victory to the one they achieved over much-fancied Belgium in 2018 - a victory which set up their eventual triumph in Moscow.
The former Arsenal and Chelsea striker told TF1: “It is extraordinary. We worked super well defensive once we took the lead, it reminded me of Belgium in 2018.
“Unfortunately, we conceded a penalty, but towards the end of the match, we had a few chances. I knew that we were going to have another, ‘Grizi’ [Antoine Griezmann] gives me a fantastic ball.
“I am very proud. This evening it was a truly great match, we knew the potential of this young English generation. It was the mental side of things where we got the win.”